High tech Dutch roads to benefit cyclists

'Self lighting' roads and heated tarmac trialled in Zwolle

Glow in the dark road markings and geothermally heated tarmac are being trialled in the city of Zwolle, Holland, as part of the Dutch government's green road strategy, which aims to boost the number of cycle commutes by 20 percent over the next 20 years.

The glowing road markings contain crystals that harvest and store solar energy during the day and emit light at night. Designer Daan Roosegaarde explained the genesis of the energy efficient safety measure: "Governments are shutting down lighting at night to save money, so energy is becoming far more important than we could have imagined."

Trials are also underway to harvest subterranean geothermal energy, channelling heated water through small pipes to the road surface to maintain a just-above-freezing temperature and prevent ice forming or snow settling.

The principal of using underground heat to keep roads clear is well established, and its practicality proven. The Swiss SERSO system went into operation in 1994 and is still working today, storing excess solar energy in bedrock in the summer and reusing it in the winter to control the road surface. Such systems can run in reverse in the summer, helping to keep the surface cool, increasing longevity and keeping maintenance costs down.  

It's argued that the relatively expensive installation costs of the technology would be offset by the financial benefits of reduced accidents, and the health and monetary benefits of increased bike use.

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