Amsterdam's cyclists counter invites riders to count themselves among the good guys, Source: City of Amsterdam

Manual counter: a quirky way to dissuade Amsterdam cyclists from running the red light

Manual counter: a quirky way to dissuade Amsterdam cyclists from running the red light

Count yourself for good behaviour, or how using crowd psychology can help to increase road safety

In the rush to make cities smarter and more digital, we can forget that human nature is after all organic and analogue and occasionally old-school tech can work better if it involves personal interaction. With this in mind, Amsterdam traffic authorities have installed a manual counter at a local crossroad to encourage cyclists to stop at a red light rather than zoom through it.

The way it works is that it all counts on the psychology of following a good example. The counter shows how many cyclists before you have stopped and if you decide to ignore it, it will probably make you feel a little bit guilty inside. And in a rule-loving society such as the Dutch one, that surely can lead to behavioural change.

Cyclists can be dangerous to traffic, too, but they don’t have to

Apparently, despite Amsterdam’s preference for bikes over cars, old traffic habits die hard, and actually, people feel brazen about going through a red light when they are on two wheels, rather than on four. However, even if packed with less horsepower and mass, a speeding cyclist can still be a danger to himself or pedestrians crossing the street and heavy injuries do happen.

City authorities claim that the phenomenon is so widespread that 25% of bike riders do this infraction regularly. So much so, that it has been declared one of the top 3 annoyances about living in Amsterdam.

The manual counter has been installed at the Boelelaan – Parnassusweg intersection of the Dutch capital city, following a successful experiment last year. More precisely, it is placed before the actual red light post so that it will be the first thing that cyclists see when approaching it.

A big button invites them to press it and count themselves as being one of the good guys. According to psychologists, people want to be part of that group ultimately and not feel ostracized.

Another low-tech, or even no-tech addition, is the placement of a sign with a photo of a child waiting at a red light with the text “Set a good example”. It serves to remind you that if a child can do it, adults can do it, too. These photo signs have been put at 12 intersections in the city.



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