In Aarhus, Cyclists Control Traffic Lights For a Smoother Ride

The Danish city is testing a system provided by RFID company ID-advice that turns the light green when it detects the presence of a bicycle at the intersection.
By Claire Swedberg
May 17, 2016

Editor's note: This story first appeared in RFIDJournal.com on December 15, 2015

Traffic lights are going green for cyclists automatically at one particular intersection in Aarhus, Denmark, with the city's pilot deployment of a passive radio frequency identification solution, known as 2Green, provided by ID-advice. With RFID tags attached to bicycles and readers installed at the intersection, the system can detect when a cyclist is approaching, and forward a prompt to the traffic-signaling software to switch the light facing the bike to green, while turning the cross-traffic light to red. That data is also collected for analytics purposes.

The solution is part of the European project known as Radical, launched in 2013 to develop smart cities using Internet of Things services. Six cities from as many European countries are taking part in the Radical project, using a variety of technologies for other smart-city applications. "Since Aarhus is known to be—and also has a clear strategy to be—a cycling city, and also has a clear strategy to be a smart city, it was a perfect match" to combine the RFID technology with bicycle safety, says Aarhus city-development consultant Louise Overgaard.

At one of Aarhus' busy roads, the city installed two RFID readers, one at each side of the intersection, to identify the presence of bicyclists.
Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, is home to thousands of cyclists, many of whom are university students. The city opted to test a system that would enable a select number of cyclists to safely move through intersections quickly, while compelling vehicles to always stop when those bicycles are in the intersection. The solution, however, needed to be flexible enough to be bypassed in some cases, such as the presence of an emergency vehicle.

The city has already been working on a project focused on improving bicycle access to the city center for commuters living in the suburbs, according to Pablo Celis, the manager of Aarhus Cykelby (Aarhus Cycle City), an agency that is part of Aarhus' road division and is heading the RFID project. In that effort, the city has installed a bicycle "superhighway" consisting of a bike lane that cyclists can use to travel 15 to 20 kilometers (9.3 to 12.4 miles) from outside the city to the commercial district. (Additional bike superhighways are in the works.)

The superhighway enables cyclists to quickly get to the city, but once they arrive, traffic lights can cause delays and frustration. Therefore, Aarhus opted to test a solution from ID-advice, a Danish RFID firm established in 2012. According to Rita Westergaard, ID-advice's business solutions manager, her company offers low-frequency (LF) and high-frequency (HF) RFID technology for tracking laundry and tools, and for use in science centers, as well as ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) technology for sports and cultural events. The company is now marketing a commercial version of the 2Green light-changing technology.

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