Photo courtesy of TPA Instytut Badań Technicznych Sp. z o.o
Glow-in-the-dark bike paths
The future is now!
Interview by Tammy Thorne
With the sun setting earlier every day we're cycling a lot more in the dark, as winter descends. It's one thing to traverse the city on relatively well-lit arterial roads, but in the darker corners of the city's recreational trails wouldn't it wonderful to be able to have an eco-friendly alternative to spotty streetlights? (*Cough* Martin Goodman Trail *cough.*)
About a month ago we heard tell of a glow in the dark bike path in Poland. Intrigued by the innovative infrastructure we contacted the folks behind it to get a bit of insight into the project. It's the brainchild of TPA Instytut Badań Technicznych Sp. z o.o - a Vienna based lab that falls under the umbrella corporation of STRABAG SE, one of Europe's largest construction companies. They specialize in asphalt, concrete, earthworks and geotechnical engineering. Two of their engineers, Kamil Otkallo and Marianne Jaki, were kind enough to fill us in on the details of the project.
Where is the path?
Kamil Otkallo: The exact location is Lidzbark Warmiński, it's the bike path along road 511, near Wielochowskie lake. It is 100 metres long.
How much does it cost to install one mile of this solar bike lane?
Kamil Otkallo: The technology is new so it is quite expensive, but we are extensively working on a few optimizations. At the moment, depending how we will apply our glowing materials the costs will rise from three to six times in comparison to the costs of construction of standard bike path.
How does it work? How is the solar glow activated?
Marianne Jaki: We used special synthetic substances called luminophores, which “load” during daylight and then emit accumulated energy during nighttime. The bike path is blue in daylight, which creates an optimum composition of colors with a neighboring lake and nature.
How long does it last? how long does it glow for and how long will the path itself last in weather?
Marianne Jaki: Due to its unique surface, the bike path accumulates light during the day, then emits light up to 10 hours during the night – depending on light exposure conditions. The bike path emits blue light at night with no need for any additional power supply – it is self-sufficient, eco-friendly and, what is most important, it improves the safety of pedestrians and cyclists at night.
Next steps? Are there any other cities interested in this technology?
Marianne Jaki: The 100 metre section of the luminous bike path is an experimental section. We will be testing the surface's reaction on atmospheric variables. Thereby, we will be able to verify the design brief and continue to improve the technology, [eventually] finding new use for it.
Presently, we are planning our next investments to continue experimenting. We will be able to offer our product to our clients once it is fully tested.
Wow! The future is now! Wouldn't it be dandy to see something like this on our beautiful recreational paths along the lake and in the Don Valley here in Toronto?
Now, this isn't the first time that glowing pavement and solar energy has been considered as a an alternative road surface. There was the "Starry Night" Path that a lot of people pointed too when SP z.o.o's glowing experiment first hit the internet. They were partially involved in the development of that project. But in that instance there were LED lights embedded in the pavement, and it was solar powered by an off-site array. There is also the Solar Roadways project, which uses a mix of LED lights and solar technology in a panel format that can be walked on and driven on.