Posts Tagged ‘ITS’

ITS != Bike Project

Intelligent Transportation Systems (now there’s a misnomer!) are computer and sensor systems for increasing the automobile throughput of intersections. They are much cheaper and less disruptive than expanding intersections.

But make no mistake, they are just another form of roadway expansion because they increase the capacity of a roadway. And yet in many cases ITS is described as a bike project:

“One of the main complaints we had from cyclists is they would get the green indication, and then start pedaling and then get halfway through the intersection and see it turn yellow and then red on them,” said Pleasanton traffic engineer Mike Tassano.

“I can think of quite a few times when I’ve been stuck in an intersection,” said cyclist Evan Haase.

Haase knows the problem all too well. So-called smart traffic lights seem just a little too dumb to notice a bicycle. Sometimes, they turn red too quickly. Other times, they never turn green.

But in Pleasanton all that has changed. They call it the Intersector and it looks like a big radar gun mounted next to a traffic light. It fires microwaves down into the intersection and when they bounce back, it can tell if it’s looking at a car, a pedestrian, or even a bicycle.

“Once it does, it can then tell the traffic controller there’s a bicycle here and provide the extra time it needs to get across the intersection,” said Tassano.

On a computer screen, there are black numbers for cars and a blue box is put around the number if it is a bike. The computer will give that bike an extra 10 seconds to cross the intersection and if there’s no bike, the computer speeds up the traffic lights to get more cars through.

Cyclists only require signals with sufficient greentime, something that can be accomplished for free by reprogramming the timer. If traffic engineers have a more sophisticated solution involving microwaves to speed things up for cars, that’s all well and good — but should bike/ped funding be paying for it?

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