Mix the spirit of Vincent Van Gogh, some glow-in-the-dark paint and an increasingly popular mode of transportation in the United States and you may have a safer way to get around.

That’s the idea behind an innovative bike path that Texas A&M researchers have created and installed on campus.

By adopting a Dutch intersection design and adding some solar-powered paint, researchers have created a crossing that they say is safer for bikers, pedestrians and drivers alike. The glowing pathway even uses recycled material, so it’s environmentally friendly. Put it all together, and it’s a first for U.S. bike path and intersection design, university officials say.

“Basically, it’s paint by day and glowing paint at night,” said Robert Brydia, senior research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

The overall design is intended to reduce conflict points between motorists and bicycle riders and improve each one’s visibility where they do have to cross paths.

At many existing intersections with bike lanes in the United States, for example, bicycles and right-turning vehicles must navigate a conflict point before the intersection that also puts the bike in the driver’s blind spot. That is, a bicyclist who wants to go straight or turn left must travel across the path of a vehicle turning right. Their paths cross in a way that forces the vehicle’s driver to look backward and to the right to avoid bicyclists.

Instead, Texas A&M researchers incorporated a design known as the Dutch junction for their campus intersection. The layout — which has been in use for sometime  in the Netherlands, Brydia says — keeps the designated bike lane to the right of motor vehicles and, when their paths do cross, allows them to do so where both driver and bicyclist can see each other more easily.

The design also forces vehicles to stop farther from the intersection, by moving back the white “stop bars” painted on the roadway. The additional space near the crossing creates room for a bicycle lane and a crosswalk, or zebra crossing, for pedestrians. The design also uses a concrete barrier, sort of like an extra curb or island, to separate and further protect bicycles from vehicles. It makes left turns safer for bicyclists, too: instead of turning left from the middle of the intersection, bikers effectively circle it, staying to the right. In a sense, the overall design operates almost like a stop-and-go rotary for bicycles.

“While it’s been in the Netherlands for some time, it’s very, very new to the U.S.,” Brydia said.

In addition to the Dutch junction,  the Texas university’s researchers added a splash of special green paint. The stuff soaks up sunlight by day and glows at night because of a proprietary mineral ingredient.

“So the bike lanes glow at night, and the entire intersection stays lit and softly delineates the paths for the cyclist,” Brydia said. “That’s the innovation that was married with the Dutch junction to really make it ‘gee whiz, wow’ … why it is this is so cool.”

Transportation officials from several major U.S. cities and agencies already have expressed an interest in using the new design, Brydia said. By the way, to see how the Dutch actually mixed Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” with the latest in bike lane design, check out this design.

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