A Push for Innovation: an Economic Way to Increase Safe Cycling in Kelowna
City of Kelowna discovered a creative way to use wireless push-button technology for detecting cyclists at road intersections and increased cyclist safety at a fraction of a cost.
New technology that converts mechanical push to a wireless signal was adapted to replace traditional method which requires digging up the road or island for an underground conduit and wiring.
The City of Kelowna has been very invested in supporting a vibrant cycling culture in the city. Kelowna has an extensive bicycle network (the largest one in Canada for a city its size), a very effective cycling to work program, and a pilot project to monitor pedestrian and bicycle activity around the downtown core. The latest addition to Kelowna’s list of initiatives that support active transportation in the city is a creative technological solution to detecting cyclists at road intersections.
Staff at the City of Kelowna discovered a cost-effective way to increase cyclist safety through an innovative use of existing technology, originally intended for a very different application. After much internal discussion, the city decided to launch a pilot project to test the use of piezoelectric push button capable of converting mechanical push of the button into electrical energy and transmitting the signal wirelessly without requiring any direct electrical power or batteries. This new technology can be deployed without the need for digging up the road or island for underground conduit and wiring, significantly reducing installation costs associated with the traditional approach.
The City started with a pilot project at KLO Road and Gordon Drive, and has since expanded to install 22 push buttons at 12 different locations selected based on greater cyclist activity, installation suitability, and available options for observation.
The piezoelectric push button could be used for any application (i.e. pedestrian or cycling). However the city has used this technology strictly for cyclist detection.
This project supports the city’s effort to achieve one of the ten main goals outlined in the Kelowna’s OCP to “Feature a Balanced Transportation Network – Increase the attractiveness, convenience and safety of all modes of transportation by implementing “complete streets” that are designed to serve broader range of transportation modes, focusing on pedestrians, cyclists and transit service, and function in the context of surrounding land uses.”
The City has also recently adopted a Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan.
Energy Savings/GHG reductions
Emission reductions specific to this initiative are not easily calculated as it is a part of the City’s broader plans to encourage increased cycling.
“Innovation should be a part of culture and leaders should encourage ideas and theories.”
– Atif Kan, P.Eng., City of Kelowna
While existing structures such as traffic poles can easily be utilized for pedestrians, they are not as suitable for cyclists. Installing push buttons for bikes triggers expensive underground work of digging, installing conduits, sidewalk rework etc. The new batteryless/wireless button solution doesn’t require the expensive construction work and provides flexibility to install the pushbutton anywhere as it is independent of underground utility conflict.
This cost of new wireless technology is minimal, approximately $500 plus installation costs, compared to older methods which could cost up to $10,000 or upwards. The deployment of the new cycling push button can be completed by a traffic technician and requires no major alteration of existing infrastructure. In addition to lower costs, installation of this technology results in fewer road closures and traffic delays. All these factors make the project very cost efficient. The cost saving fluctuates based on the location as every intersection is different; with more underground work avoided, the saving will be greater.
As well as savings directly related to the installation process, the new technology is expected to reduce maintenance costs. In case of motor vehicle accidents, the infrastructure can be brought up very fast and replacement is quick as well.
Other municipalities can benefit from Kelowna’s experiment and easily adopt this technology to meet their own goals to promote active transportation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Lessons learned through this process include:
- Benefit can be gained from doing value engineering—increasing value by improving function or reducing cost—on repetitive projects.
- Finding time to explore alternatives outside the expected work scope opens space for innovation.
- Don’t hesitate to pilot potential solutions to ensure desired results are achievable.
- Creative thinking and innovation of staff was crucial in making this project possible. Innovation flourishes when it becomes a part of culture and leaders encourage ideas and theories.
- Read more technical bulletins and engage in discussion about new technologies.
Local government contact
Traffic Signals & Systems Supervisor, City of Kelowna