Flo: the Smart Traffic Light for Urban Bikes

Flo helps cyclists adjust their speed in order to catch a maximum of green lights.

For many cyclists, red lights are a pain in the neck. Flo helps users catch more green lights by indicating how they should adjust their speed, in real time.

Autor*in Terri Kafyeke, 05.04.17

For many cyclists, red lights are a pain in the neck. Flo helps users catch more green lights by indicating how they should adjust their speed, in real time.

If you are an urban cyclist, you are certainly aware of the annoyance of red traffic lights that break your momentum and make your commute longer, one intersection at a time. You are not alone. A survey conducted by the Happy Biking Project identified traffic lights as the #1 cause of frustration among cyclists in Utrecht. Even in the Netherlands, a country known for its bike-friendliness, traffic lights are optimized for cars and can make two-wheeled commutes less pleasant.

Springlab, a Dutch entreprise aiming to promote physical exercise, found an ingenious solution to this common problem. They created Flo, a smart traffic light for bicycles.

© Flo

Smart Sensors and Animal Signals

The blue poles are placed 100 metres ahead of traffic lights. They measure each cyclist’s speed and indicate whether they should accelerate or slowdown in order to make the next green light. This is displayed using intuitive symbols from the animal kingdom. A hare means you should speed up, while a tortoise means that you should reduce your pace to make the green light. A cow means that you won’t make the light, no matter what you do. Conversely, a thumbs up indicates that you are right on track to get the green light if you maintain your speed.

The concept is illustrated in the video below (with English subtitles):

The Future of Urban Cycling?

The Flo system was launched in Utrecht two weeks ago and there are already plans to install it in Eindhoven (also in the Netherlands) and, across the border, in the Belgian city of Antwerp.

While Springlab’s ambition is mainly to encourage physical activity by making cycling fun, there are obvious environmental benefits to facilitating bike commuting. If people are less frustrated when cycling through a city, they are more likely to use their bike as their main mode of transportation and ditch more polluting alternatives. More people cycling on a regular basis would help reduce carbon emissions, in addition to being good for the health of the population.

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