November 10


Increasing Bike Path Safety with Glow-In-The-Dark Asphalt

By Mike Spack

November 10, 2016

bike path, Glowing asphalt, walking path

Guest Post by Bryant Ficek, PE, PTOE, Vice President at Spack Consulting.

Every now and then, a new technology grabs my attention and I can’t get enough information about it. This just happened again last month as Poland unveiled a new bike path. The cool thing about it – it glows in the dark.

Polish urban planners have been searching for ways to improve bike path safety and accessibility, particularly at night. One way to accomplish this goal is to improve the lighting. Enter “luminophores”, small crystal-like particles of phosphor. During the day, they use the sunlight to charge, allowing the material to glow at night for up to 10 hours. Essentially, it’s the same as those glow-in-the-dark star stickers that children (including my kids) put on their ceilings.

The company that developed it, TPA Instytut Badan Technicznych Sp. z o.o, was inspired by a similar glow-in-the-dark bike path in the Netherlands by Studio Roosegaarde. Except the Netherlands one used solar-powered LED lights and this one uses no electrical power. Different colors are available, with blue chosen for this project to match the surrounding landscape.

Besides looking really neat, this concept has a chance to be a big deal. But here’s our questions that the project will hopefully answer over the next months and years:

  • How bright?  Depending upon the amount of light, this path could be a replacement for overhead lighting rather than just a novelty supplement.
  • How durable?  Normal use will grind the surface down over time, which will be interesting to see how the glow holds up. Hopefully, they are also testing snow plowing or other activities that scrap the path to evaluate that impact.
  • Can it replace striping?  With different colors, one could potentially put in yellow or white stripes down the middle and on the edge as well as imbed symbols such as speed limits, curve or grade warnings, etc.
  • Will it attract critters?  A porch light attracts lots of bugs at night and other animals may confuse the light for warmth, all of which could become distractions and obstacles to users.
  • How expensive?  While we would expect it to be more than a standard asphalt, the extra cost may make sense with good durability and eliminating overhead lighting.

It’s probably safe to assume the researchers have these and other questions in mind as part of this experiment. As this test moves forward, it will be extremely interesting in see just how viable this new product is.

  • I have another question – How does this path impact safety? Will it help make cyclists more visible to drivers on the adjacent roadway? If a cyclist is wearing lights and reflective gear, would it just blend in with the path? Or, if the cyclist is not wearing any lights or reflective gear, will they be a big enough shadow for drivers to notice?

    It certainly looks neat, and the electricity-free part is great!

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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