City to Introduce ‘Computer-Aided Crosswalks’ For Pedestrian Safety

New technology aimed at making pedestrians more visible to oncoming traffic when crossing the street will be put into operation in five places around Reykjavík this fall. RÚV reports that the pilot project was introduced by the Independence Party and unanimously approved at a City Council meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

The technology in question involves a sensor that detects pedestrians approaching a crosswalk. When this happens, LED lights illuminate the crossing and draw attention to the person walking. Warning lights on the way to the crossing will also illuminate.

Ólafus Kr. Guðmundsson, a substitute city councilman for the Independence Party, told Vísir that these “computer-aided crosswalks” will play an important role in preventing serious accidents in the future, recalling, for instance, an incident that took place on Hringbraut in January when a young person was hit by a car while walking to school.

Each new crossing system will cost ISK 2 million [$16,379: €14,621]. The specific intersections that will be selected for the pilot have yet to be chosen.

Parents On Crossing Guard Duty After Teen Hit by Car

Reykjavík baby

Parents and school staff in the Vesturbær neighborhood on the west side of Reykjavík are on high alert after a thirteen-year-old was hit by a car while walking to school this week, RÚV reports. The same afternoon, city officials stationed a crossing guard at the accident site to make street crossings safer for schoolchildren, but just to be safe, neighborhood parents have also taken up an informal watch.

The victim, who luckily did not sustain any serious injuries during the event, was hit at the intersection of Hringbraut and Meistaravellir at 9.00am on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, neighborhood residents, such as Ólöf Jakobsdóttir and her husband and father, stationed themselves at different points along the busy street in the early morning hours. The new crossing guard is intended to be stationed at Hringbraut and Meistaravellir until the spring, but Ólöf says she intends to personally monitor traffic and pedestrians at her corner, Framnesvegur and Hringbraut, until they feel sure that local children will be safe.

Parents Take Up Watch

“[We’ll be here] for a while, at least,” Ólöf confirmed, “and we hope that [other] parents take some part in this, too. We’re going to do it, at least, me and my husband. My dad, a grandfather, is up for coming out and keeping watch there, too. Maybe until we see that it’s in place, this crossing guard patrol, that the city’s providing. Just until we feel safe about stopping.”

Ólöf also believes that the traffic lights at intersections along Hringbraut should be adjusted so that all traffic comes to a stop when the walk sign is green.

Margrét Einarsdóttir, the principal of Vesturbæjarskóli elementary school, also came out to monitor traffic along Hringbraut this morning. “Everything went well this morning and there was also a police officer on site…But of course this issue needs to be examined more closely – [traffic] speed, etc. And we’ve been doing that for a number of years – that’s not lacking.”

School Lacked Funding for Crossing Guard

Crossing guard duty in the area is actually under the purview of a school employee. But although the school had previously received requests for a crossing guard at Hringbraut and Meistaravellir, Margrét says that the city had not provided funding for this until the accident occurred on Wednesday. She says that local residents have been complaining about traffic conditions along Hringbraut for many years.

A working group led by the City of Reykjavík’s Environment and Planning Committee did in fact publish a report in January 2017 which proposed, among other things, that the speed of traffic west of Kringlumýrarbraut be lowered by 10 km/hr in two areas where the current speed limit is 50-60km/h (31-37mi/h). It was also suggested that pedestrian paths along streets where the speed limit is 40-50km/h (25-31mi/h), such as the section of Hringbraut where the child was hit, be raised and more clearly marked.

Police will hold a meeting with residents next week to discuss traffic along Hringbraut.

East Side Pranksters Give Cannabis the Green Light

Pranksters on the east side of Reykjavík gave marijuana the green light on Thursday, placing a cannabis leaf-shaped stencil atop the green traffic light at the intersection of Langholtsvegur and Álfheimar, RÚVreports. Páll Sigurðsson, an electrical engineer in the city’s traffic light service department, was unamused by the prank, but said that vandalism of traffic lights is uncommon in Reykjavík, as most people realize that the signals are important safety devices.

Although the stencil does cover some of the green light, it does not appear to impede drivers’ ability to recognize the signal at this time. Páll says that the city’s response will be simple: “We remove something like this immediately, regardless of what the image is. It’s very rare that something like this comes up, and this is definitely an exception to the rule.”

Páll went on to say that traffic lights should be respected and not subjected to such vandalism, for safety reasons. “This is naturally a safety issue. It’s just common sense not to mess around with them and most have sense enough not to.”

Traffic light stencils have been to put to similar, albeit state-approved use elsewhere in Iceland. The northern town of Akureyri installed red hearts in their traffic lights in 2008, “as a consequence of the finance crash…when there was a need for some positive thinking and to put emphasis on what really matters.”