Gunnar Bothner-By / Flickr

New intelligent signals will reduce travel time for cyclists by 10 percent.

The best urban cycling system in the world is about to get a little better.

Long home to a highly advanced bike network, Copenhagen will reportedly replace 380 traffic signals with intelligent lights that will prioritize the flow of buses and bicycles over cars at intersections. The sophisticated signals are expected to cut travel times for transit riders by 5 and 20 percent, and for cyclists by 10 percent. Copenhagenize sees the move as the latest effort in a larger paradigm shift away from car-first transport policy:

The City now wants to make the baseline question "how will it affect the travel times for bicycles?" If it has a negative effect on bicycle traffic and travel times, the idea will be viewed as less positive. Car traffic will be sent farther down the hierarchy in this new paradigm.

Alex Davies of Wired reports that the new intelligent signal system will involve buses communicating their position, passenger load, and schedule delay to the lights ahead of time. The light network would then extend a green anywhere from eight to 30 seconds, no doubt to avoid bunching and make up for lost time. Davies writes that a pilot of 10 smart signals in Copenhagen’s Valby area “found that buses saved up to two minutes during rush hour.”

The reason cyclists in Copenhagen don’t stand to save even more time with the new system is that many signal corridors in the Denmark capital are already timed for bicycle “green waves”—a series of lights synchronized so riders don’t hit a red if they maintain a certain speed. For cyclists going at least 20 km an hour (12 mph) through Nørrebrogade, Østerbrogade, and Amagerbrograde, for instance, everything’s coming up green. Of course a green wave can be phased for any travel mode, but Copenhagen wants bikes ahead of the pack.

A few American cities have experimented with green waves for bikes. San Francisco has timed steady flows for riders going roughly 15 mph on a number of streets throughout the city, and Chicago piloted waves at 12 mph last summer. Broader pushes for transit-signal priority—typically considered part of a package of advanced bus enhancements, along with all-door boarding and dedicated lanes—have been harder to come by in the U.S., but every new example of success can only help the cause.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    The Cities Americans Want to Flee, and Where They Want to Go

    An Apartment List report reveals the cities apartment-hunters are targeting for their next move—and shows that tales of a California exodus may be overstated.

  2. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

  3. Transportation

    In Paris, a Very Progressive Agenda Is Going Mainstream

    Boosted by big sustainability wins, Mayor Anne Hidalgo is pitching bold plans to make the city center “100 percent bicycle” and turn office space into housing.

  4. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  5. Equity

    What ‘Livability’ Looks Like for Black Women

    Livability indexes can obscure the experiences of non-white people. CityLab analyzed the outcomes just for black women, for a different kind of ranking.

×