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Amsterdam cyclists get signs asking them not to jump red lights

Counters displaying numbers of those who waited aim to give 'nudge' to people tempted to ride through signals...

Cyclists in Amsterdam are being greeted by signs at one of the city’s busiest junctions that aim to provide a ‘nudge’ to stop people riding through red traffic lights.

The electronic signs, which are being deployed by the city council, show a counter displaying the number of riders who have waited for the lights to change that day, with the words “Waited at red” appearing above the digits, and “You too?” below, reports NOS.nl.

> Underwater cycle garage – with space for 7,000 bikes – set to open in Amsterdam

The signs are aimed at encouraging people to stop at the signals, as they are required to do, rather than treat red traffic lights as merely being advisory.

People are asked to press a large red button at the signal when they stop, which the council says “causes the counter to increase and the desired behaviour therefore becomes visible.”

By making the issue more visible, it hopes that it will encourage more cyclists to stop at red lights, with around one in four currently failing to do so.

The initiative is one of a number of ‘nudges’ trialled last year by the city council aimed at reinforcing positive behaviour among riders.

In a three-month pilot last year at a less busy junction, Kamerlingh Onneslaan, in the east of the Dutch capital, it was discovered that 20 per cent more cyclists waited at red lights compared to before the counter and sign was installed.

This morning, the signs, developed by the behavioural change consultancy Dijksterhuis & van Baaren, went live at one of the city’s busiest junctions, where Parnassusweg meets De Boelelaan, near Amsterdam-Zuid station and adjacent to the main VU University building.

Meanwhile, a dozen junctions around the city have today received another new feature aimed at giving cyclists a ‘nudge’ to embrace positive behaviour.

At the junctions, each of which are used by high numbers of children, there is now a large picture of a child waiting at a red light – which, the council says, “responds to the sense of responsibility of adults towards children to set a good example.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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21 comments

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Hirsute | 1 year ago
0 likes
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quiff | 1 year ago
2 likes

I feel there's a "red light district" headline in here somewhere.

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Steve K | 1 year ago
2 likes

"Is a thumb a finger?" might have been a more interesting discussion.

Edit - I posted this in the wrong thread.  Whoops  1 

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chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like

Yeah... people have these kind of good ideas all the time.  The difference is that in NL they know that humans get impatient waiting at lights and in addition they do seem to be keen not to hold up cyclists and pedestrians.  That's not something that apparently features in the UK ("maximise the throughput of motor traffic while keeping it safe").

I suspect these "nudges" are at about the same level of effectiveness as "share the road" exhortations.  They might be useful with some people most of the time.  Otherwise it'll depend very much on the numbers of the population already motivated to follow the rules.  If these are rules with no enforcement (even if just "social pressure" / shame) good luck with that!

The best ideas?  Red lights which aren't relevant for you.  Or red lights which go green as you approach.  Or no red lights.

Here are some previous ideas in the "nudge" vein:

A countdown timer showing when the lights will change.
The red light man thanks you for abiding by the light
Flo, your guide to the green light

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KDee replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
2 likes

As a resident of NL, I can pretty much guarantee this will have little to zero effect. Exactly as you say Chris, without enforcement it will be seen as little more than a recommendation. A bit like firework bans in specific areas that aren't enforced and therefore completely ignored.

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vthejk replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like

They installed countdown timers in India around 2010-ish, ostensibly to reduce instances of people jumping red (or, alarmingly, pushing through when red has been showing for several seconds if it 'seems safe, which it never really is, but India).

After they were installed, these instances did reduce...

...People now simply jump the lights when the timer reaches 10 seconds.

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Rendel Harris replied to vthejk | 1 year ago
4 likes

That happens over here a lot with the pedestrian countdown timers, waiting at a light in London you can hear the revs behind you starting to build as the pedestrian warning counter descends. Plenty of people going on zero for the pedestrian counter rather then waiting for the flashing amber.

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

As the blog I linked to about countdown timers notes - in the Dutch system the countdown is for how long the pedestrian / cyclist had to wait for a green, not how long they have to cross. Small but important difference and shows this is clearly more for the vulnerable road user's convenience. (noting that of course all traffic lights and pedestrian crossings are "motor vehicle infra" at the end of the day - only required *because* motor vehicles).

In the Indian example vthejk mentions you can see that this may not be a good idea to bring in for motorists because them "jumping the gun" has more potential to cause problems for others.

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Car Delenda Est replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
4 likes

Anything that tells a motorist to 'get ready' will be treated as 'go'.

There's a traffic light on Brighton's seafront which flashes amber for motors while having a flashing green man for Peds. The obvious result is that cars just plough through the green man.

Once I saw a poor naive honest motorists break, and stop following the convoy, when the light finally turned green; only to be immediately honked by the veteran motorists behind.

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vthejk replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like

Totally makes sense - sorry for the slightly lazy comment as I didn't read your linked article fully, just thought this was relevant. I suppose as well that's another point corroborating the fact that when pedestrians and cyclists 'jump' signals, the main deterrent is that doing so risks our own lives.....so most pedestrians and cyclists are unlikely to illegally jump signals aren't we.

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ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
1 like

What's the point though? It's perfectly safe for us to go through red lights, and is in fact safer than making us wait.

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BalladOfStruth replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
4 likes
ChuckSneed wrote:

Not sure how allowing us to cycle through red lights makes it safer for us. That sounds like the exact opposite of safer. You realise the light is red because other traffic is using the road? You know, traffic that if you go through a red light will either have to suddenly stop for you, or will just run you over. Is that a hill you want to die on?

...?

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ChuckSneed replied to BalladOfStruth | 1 year ago
2 likes

I think you'll find other people in the thread provided plenty of evidence that it's safe for us to go through red lights. It's called an Idaho stop, you should look it up. My viewpoint was therefore changed, so I'm confused as to why the Dutch government are doing this.

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wycombewheeler replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
3 likes
ChuckSneed wrote:

I think you'll find other people in the thread provided plenty of evidence that it's safe for us to go through red lights. It's called an Idaho stop, you should look it up. My viewpoint was therefore changed, so I'm confused as to why the Dutch government are doing this.

The trouble with internet posts is that it is impossible to convey tone, so I am unsure whether this a world first of someone having their opinion changed by strangers on the internet, or if ChuckSneed has cranked sarcasm up to 11.

I approve either way, sarcasm is highly under rated.

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hawkinspeter replied to wycombewheeler | 1 year ago
6 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:

I approve either way, sarcasm is highly under rated.

Yeah, we could really do with more sarcasm round here

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vthejk replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
4 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Yeah, we could really do with more sarcasm round here

Inflection is reaaally hard to convey online, too.

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BalladOfStruth replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
3 likes

I'm well aware of what the Idaho stop is. I'm one of the ones who tried explaining it to you in a thread a couple of weeks ago. You were less than receptive.

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Paul J replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago
2 likes

I think perhaps you don't realise just how massive the cycle traffic is in Amsterdam, especially in certain parts at "spitsuren" (rush hours). The problem isn't cyclists avoiding conflict with cars, but with other cyclists. As the article states:

"[the Parnassusweg / Boelelaan crossing] is ... een van de drukste kruisingen van de stad, met tal van auto's, trams en vooral veel fietsers."

-> "[the Parnassusweg / Boelelaan crossing] is one of the busiest crossings in the city, with many cars, trams and above all many cyclists."

The issue is cyclists are getting into conflict with each other, with some struggling to cross safely even when they have green - cause of the other cyclists ignoring red.

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KDee replied to Paul J | 1 year ago
1 like

This, for sure is a genuine issue. Bike lanes in the cities become a continuous stream of bikes at rush hour (more so in the evening than the morning), especially where there are business districts. Amsterdam Zuid has a huge business district, I've been there a few times (and now my partner's office is there).

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chrisonabike replied to Paul J | 1 year ago
1 like

It's interesting to see how new issues arise as "problems of success" e.g. now how do we manage all these cyclists / we need to restrict motor traffic to make more room for cycling!

Here's an interesting example of some Dutch creativity when you have an increasing number of people on bikes.  Note how this works with human behaviour rather than against it.

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Paul J replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
2 likes

Very good article. Love the diagonal line solution, taking advantage of the natural speed differences of cyclists as they set off across a crossing.

Also " The Dutch aren’t very good at forming an orderly queue". This is a _huge_ difference between the Brits and the Dutch (hell, between the Brits and almost anyone else!). Where you see cycle commuters forming orderly and very long queues at cycle-traffic lights in London... that just doesn't happen in NL.

Cycle paths can be /incredibly/ busy in NL at peak times. Especially in big cities. Especially around any kind of school or university at certain times - and that's true even in towns. It can be chaos at times. But it works much, much better than having everyone in cars.

It's easy really, you just need a population that considers cycling perfectly normal. The dutch culture of not coddling people possibly is a factor too - parents generally don't go "Oh my little precious, there are drops of rain outside, I'd better drive you to school" in NL.  3

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