Researchers to return to roundabout

Drivers, pedestrians using New Scotland Ave. feature asked to submit feedback

— Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center will once again make use of a Bethlehem roundabout to continue a study into improving driver and pedestrian safety at the circular intersections.

The study is backed by the efforts state Department of Transportation and NYS Energy Research and Development Authority. The new demonstration is a continuation of the nighttime evaluations held last June at the Route 140 and New Scotland Avenue roundabout. The aim is to verify a better visibility system that could potentially be incorporated into engineering designs of roundabouts in the future.

“We chose the spot because … we thought location was best because there isn’t a lot of pedestrian traffic,” said Senior Research Scientist of the RPI Lighting Research Center John Bullough.

The demonstration is being conducted with the support and cooperation of the Town of Bethlehem and volunteers from its PaTHs 4 Bethlehem citizen’s advisory committee.

The study is using a four-layered approach researchers call Ecoluminance to help driver visibility. It “combines vegetation and lighting in a way that provides potential safety and energy benefits when compared to current practices using pole-mounted overhead lighting.”

Bullough said researchers found that by placing plants within the center of roundabouts and using various lighting systems, drivers are more likely to realize the curvature of the road and are less likely to drive straight. Also, low-mounting light fixtures and reflective markers will be used to illuminate crosswalks and the pedestrians using them. To save energy, regular streetlight will be replaced with LED lighting.

“Initial studies indicate that Ecoluminance provides enhanced visual guidance to increase safety for drivers and pedestrians, while providing an energy savings of more than 50 percent compared with existing overheard streetlights at roundabouts,” said Bullough.

Previous demonstrations were meant to see if researchers could replicate findings that had been performed virtually in the laboratory. Bullough said the new demonstrations are meant to create a more “real-world situation” with the experiment taking place over two days during the week of June 18. During that time, researchers will study traffic patterns, speed rates and if the number of pedestrians who use the crosswalk increases.

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