LED road markings and signing can help allocate road space more dynamically

Every year, the amount of people moving from rural areas to urban centres is steadily increasing due to the opportunities that big and growing cities can provide, including a greater job offer, better living conditions and a wide range of available and efficient services. As a result, the expansion of the metropolitan area, together with the increasing population density and the greater demand for goods and services, leads cities to face new challenges to guarantee a good quality of life for all citizens.

Unfortunately, issues raised by urbanisation often clash with environmental policies and the idea of achieving more sustainable and comfortable living conditions for individuals. The climate emergency we are facing requires structural changes, both in people’s behaviour and in the way cities are conceived. Thus, there is a growing need to optimise the use of urban spaces, which is also becoming one of the most efficient and effective solutions to tackle climate crisis and enhance liveability in cities at the same time.

To support these objectives, the MORE project conducted LED lights trials to assess the potential for new technologies to enhance urban road-space efficiency. These trials showed a more flexible and dynamic approach on urban space design through the implementation of LED lights in traffic signs. The aim was to explore the possibility to vary the displays of road markings in order to manage traffic at different times of the day. The trials took place at the Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL) in London, a unique facility designed to explore the ways in which people interact with their physical environment. The use of such facility was crucial in testing new options, as it allowed to simulate new scenarios to assess whether the new implementations would bring greater benefits than the present ones. The results of these trials were presented in the MORE report “Dynamic Road Space Allocation: a role for LED Road Markings and Signing”.

The recreated scenarios comprised a variety of traffic sign layouts, road marking bay with different shapes and colours, and coloured carriageway surfaces to reserve space for specific types of vehicles. Three groups of people were called in, according to age and profession, and they were asked for their opinion on the new measures adopted and whether they noticed any differences with normal signs. The decision to call different audiences allowed for a more accurate evaluation of the new LED lights, since many answers changed depending on the target group.

Participants were impressed by the novelty this implementation could bring, despite some concerns about possible vandalism. Trials demonstrate that new technologies can foster the development of sustainable forms of mobility, in this case by optimising existing areas that would previously have performed only one function. The experiment confirmed that the pursuit of greater efficiency in urban space is key to ensure a more functional and sustainable environment for the people who live in it.