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Traffic Safety Infrastructure: Your City Just Got Smarter


3 mins


Opgal staff writers

published published

January 02, 2017


Safe City

It’s easy to throw around buzz words like traffic safety, development, and sustainability, when thinking about how to improve urban conditions for a cities inhabitants. But what does this actually mean for today’s cities? What changes and advancements in transportation safety and communication structure are really making a difference, attracting new families and young entrepreneurs, and keeping young professionals local?

With over 1.2 million traffic fatalities worldwide each year; practical, affordable, and reliable intelligent traffic systems are going to be instrumental in determining which cities become the gleaming beacons of our future society, and which will lag behind.

People also want to do their part for the environment, and since the 1980’s have taken measures like car-pooling and recycling programs very seriously, but it’s not enough. With emissions from vehicles skyrocketing each year, massive baby boomer retirement, and the average age of the working population getting younger, commuters are looking for alternative solutions. More and more people are riding their bicycles to work, and this shift in the way we commute has highlighted the demand for better bicycle path infrastructure, and more importantly, better traffic safety management.

One essential technology advancement we are seeing in cities all over the world in response to this demand are smart systems that enhance safety in public places, like “smart” thermal cameras at intersections. These cameras have a number of possible functions and applications, and are used for enhancing pedestrian, traffic, and bicycle safety, in many cases cutting wait times and pollution, while opening smooth uninterrupted paths for cycling commuters.

Thermal cameras with smart sensors at intersections:

At a time when everyone is thinking about what they can do to go green and cut emissions, this is an especially important initiative for city management, and some cities are definitely leading the pack.

A few cities, like Cincinnati and Denver, have installed thermal cameras with sensors at intersections that detect cyclists approaching. When a cyclist is detected, the cameras data analysis and reporting software tells the light to stay green until the cyclist has passed through the intersection.

Other cities, like Copenhagen, have gone even further. Copenhagen city planners worked closely with engineers to embrace the culture of the cyclist /commuter, and built something called the “Green Wave”. The Green Wave is basically wide bicycle traffic lanes that traverse the length of the city, with timed lights for a smooth ride all the way across the city at rush hour. If you catch the wave, you can cross the city in less than 20 minutes, without ever stopping. Plans for Green Wave 2.0 involve, you guessed it- thermal cameras with sensors to detect groups of cyclists and keep the lights green for them until they have passed.

These infrastructure improvement systems, while initially costly, have clear long term benefits and quickly pay for themselves. For more ways thermal cameras can contribute to urban safety, check out this post about smart systems for law enforcement and public safety.