Using Traffic Signals to Encourage Active Transport – Examples

Using Traffic Signals to Encourage Active Transport – Examples

Photo of two people waiting to cross an empty street

Here’s a location where sensors and an immediate green for pedestrians when no opposing traffic would make sense. Several people, one pushing a baby carriage, crossed against the light in the time before the light finally turned green for pedestrians.

After my post Traffic Signals for Active Mobility several people sent ideas for and examples of using traffic signals to encourage active walking and cycling, so I thought it would be a nice idea to keep track of the ideas just in case someone decides to pursue the idea of developing a best practices summary in the future.

Self-Controlled Traffic Signals

Self-controlled traffic signals use sensors to detect how many vehicles, cycles and pedestrians are approaching from each direction and the optimization algorithm continuously recalculates signal timing to minimize stop time for everyone. The approach was tested in Lucern Switzerland during 2020. After implementation the average waiting time for pedestrian traffic at one intersection was reduced by 29 percent thanks to self-control, and by 18 percent for car, motorcycle and bicycle traffic (ETH Zurich Research Report – German).

Reduced waiting time for pedestrians and cyclists = more walking and cycling!

Plus … no one gets mad waiting for traffic signals while no traffic is coming = less crossing against the signal and fewer complaints about the city not knowing what they are doing.

Real Time All-way Walk Phases

Illustration of an intersection with traffic signal indications

Normal operations.

Figure 1 (top) shows normal traffic signal operation. Traffic and pedestrians on up-down street have right of way (green signals). Vehicles/bikes and pedestrians on cross-street are waiting (red signal).

Sensors determine there is no vehicle/bike traffic approaching on up-down street.

Figure 2 (bottom) shows that vehicle/bike traffic on up-down street receives a red signal and pedestrians on cross-street receive a green signal enabling them to start crossing the up-down street early.

It might be possible to exempt bikes from stopping and allow them to start crossing the up-down street with the pedestrians, but this would require some good cooperation from everyone.

Illustration of an intersection with traffic signal indications

Independent 4-way walk phase.

Real time all walk phases would be especially useful on one-way arterials where traffic often moves in bunches down the street, leaving relatively long periods where no traffic is coming. This encourages pedestrians to cross against the light (in New York this is practically standard procedure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous).

The photo at the top of this post shows one of these situations in Vienna. I was shocked to see a person pushing a baby carriage cross against the light.

Your idea here!

I’d like to make this an updated list of ideas. So please send your ideas or comments to the above and I’ll update this post in the future.

Tour Bus Confidential – Tourism in Vienna 2023

Tour Bus Confidential – Tourism in Vienna 2023

Presentation illustration showing mobile phone shopping

The Vienna Visitor Widget (VVW) would be the visitor’s one-stop tourism app: tickets, schedule, shopping and more.

I developed a proposal for improving management of tour buses in Vienna. They were looking for practical technology applications that could be used to help guide bus drivers through traffic and to parking spaces, etc. but, naturally, I took the idea further and developed a comprehensive approach to city tourism in the future. I presented the paper at the 2020 Austrian Pedestrian Association conference in October.

The main idea is that people will travel less in the future and consequently will seek more authentic and interesting experiences than standard bus tours. They will want to experience cities with the knowledge of well-informed locals and use the same (transport) infrastructure as locals as they visit tourist attractions.

Drawing of a whale shaped WC in front of Vienna's NHM

Whale shaped Wien Clean WC in front of Vienna’s NHM.

My thinking is heavily influenced by cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, where riding through the city on a bike is a standard part of every tourist’s visit … even for those who wouldn’t think of riding a bike at home. The great thing is that cities can build infrastructure for residents, and it can become an attraction for tourists as it certainly is in Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

I wrote a (funny?) short story in memorandum format. The writer is from the Copenhagen tourist bureau who reports on the great things Vienna is doing for tourists. There’s a lot of information technology, much of it developed by a multi-city consortium led by Vienna, and improved walking and cycling facilities in Vienna’s future. The story is called Tour Bus Confidential – Vienna 2023 and the presentation Creating Sustainable Cities for Residents and Tourists. I also had a lot of fun making the drawings and imagining a better Vienna.

Civic Technology 2019 Reading

Civic Technology 2019 Reading

Three interesting articles about Crowdsourcing that appeared in late 2019:

My publications about using crowdsourcing in transport are available on my website andynash.com.

Using Open Source Data to Identify Blocked Bus and Bike Lanes

Using Open Source Data to Identify Blocked Bus and Bike Lanes

Exclusive bus lane in Barcelona.

Exclusive bus lane in Barcelona.

Alan Bell has used machine learning to develop a program that analyses data from traffic cameras to identify blocked bus and bike lanes. He analysed a section of St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan and found that the bike lane was blocked 55% of the time and the bus stop was blocked 57% of the time between 7am and 7pm.

This is a great example of how people can use open source data to help develop data supporting sustainable transport. In this case it is clear that better enforcement and protected bike lanes are needed. Residents can take this data to government agencies and demand change.

Read more in Bell’s Medium article Drivers Are Breaking the Law, Slowing Commutes and Endangering Lives. I Can Prove It — And Fix It … it includes videos and a link to the program on github.

Transit Alliance Miami – Metrorail Arrival Data

Transit Alliance Miami – Metrorail Arrival Data

Transit Alliance Miami Metrorail frequency dashboard created with open source data.

Transit Alliance Miami Metrorail frequency dashboard created with open source data.

The Transit Alliance Miami has created a simple graphic display illustrating the time between Miami Metrorail trains (frequency) at the Government Center station. They have taken Metrorail data and displayed it in an easy to understand format. It is an excellent example of how city residents can use open data to analyse and publicise the quality of public transport service as part of an advocacy campaign to improve public transport.

According to the website the graphic presents: A real-time audit of Miami’s Metrorail system. It measures the time between each train at Government Center. Each dot represents a train arrival. Every color corresponds to a time. Hover over a dot for more information.

Read more: How Miami Advocates Are Holding Officials Accountable for Transit Performance, by Angie Schmitt, Streeetsblog 25 January 2018.

2018 Updates

2018 Updates

Screenshot open traffic analyst

Screenshot of Open Traffic Analyst application developed for the World Bank.

Over the holidays I had a chance to update crowdsourced-transport.com with new information. Here are the highlights:

Crowdsourced Public Transport page – added:

Transport Games page – added:

Act! page – added:

Tracking Applications page – added:

  • New category: Open Source Vehicle Tracking with information on Open Traffic platform sponsored by the World Bank.

Crowdsourced Bicycling page – separated:

  • Map-based Reporting (based on GPS tracking) from
  • Pinging Bicycle Data (GPS tracking, plus ability to “ping” en-route to indicate a problem location).
  • DYI Bike Safety – reference to article on making guerrilla bike lanes permanent.
  • Added reference to The hidden bias of big data by Joe Cortright of City Observatory (May 2017) on the need for more cycling data.

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