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Calgary cyclists to get detection information at Inglewood intersection

Calgary is piloting a new system that will better inform cyclists at traffic lights, taking some of the guesswork out of whether or not they’ve triggered a sensor.

The city roads department has installed two units at a total cost of $3,000 near the pedestrian signals at the intersection of 12 Street and 8 Avenue SE along a bike route in Inglewood. The units illuminate when a bicycle has tripped one of the in-road sensors.

“One of the things we’ve heard back from the cycling community over the years is that there really isn’t a way for them to know that they’ve been detected,” said Canace Bain, Senior Traffic Engineer with the City of Calgary.

Bain said that current sensors can be tuned to get better at detecting bikes and video detection can also be used, but it’s not always effective. So cyclists may end up sitting at a light wondering when, and if, it will turn.

“They’re not always reliable depending on where cyclists position themselves in terms of the stop bar or the crosswalk, Bain said.

“So, a lot of cyclists don’t have a really good feeling when they pull up to that light.”

Current inductive loop sensors, Bain said, can detect vehicles quite easily because they have far more metal than bikes – even if the cars aren’t in the perfect detection position. They’ve now located many of the sensors to where cyclists stop for lights and they want to tune the sensitivity of these loops to better detect bikes. Now they’re making sure Calgary cyclists are aware they’ve been detected.

Cyclist Regina McCreary noticed the new indicator last week when she was biking along 8 Avenue. She said far too often she’s been left at a light waiting or having to press the pedestrian button or just pass through a red light so she could continue on her journey.

“You don’t get detected on regular lights,” McCreary said.

“Now this allows people to abide by the rules. I don’t want to run a red light, but if the light’s not going to change, I really have no choice.”

McCreary said at least having the knowledge the bikes been detected is going to give people peace of mind that they’re going to be able to travel safely through intersections.

“It’s a small step in the right direction. There’s a lot of things they could do to make this better.”

Bain said they’re piloting these in this area to see not only how the indicator light holds up to Calgary winter weather, but also look for feedback from cyclists. She said it’s a good area for a test because they’ll collect information from a wide range and skill level of cyclists.

After a year or so of collected information the city will look at rolling these out at other locations. They may also be able to build their own in-house version to reduce the overall cost.