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Advocating for Glow-in-the-Dark Roads with Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh Bicycle Path (courtesy Daan Roosegaarde & Heijmans)
Van Gogh Bicycle Path in the Netherlands (courtesy Daan Roosegaarde & Heijmans)

A glow-in-the-dark bike route inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” debuted this week in the Netherlands. It’s part of a larger vision to illuminate infrastructure with solar energy captured during the day.

Van Gogh Bicycle Path (courtesy Daan Roosegaarde & Heijmans)
Standing on the Van Gogh Bicycle Path (courtesy Daan Roosegaarde & Heijmans) (click to enlarge)

The kilometer-long “Van Gogh Bicycle Path” is located in Eindhoven, its swirls composed of thousands of glow-in-the-dark stones embedded in concrete (along with some guiding LEDs fueled by solar panels). It’s the latest component of the Smart Highway project. Led by Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde’s Studio Roosegaarde with Heijmans Infrastructure, the goal is “to make smart roads by using light, energy and road signs that interact with the traffic situation.”

Earlier this year, Smart Highway’s Glowing Lines debuted along a highway in Oss, also in the Netherlands, adding traffic lines that glowed for eight hours after absorbing light during the day. While fading was an early obstacle, the idea is the lines are more visible than just road paint (although potentially distracting if you weren’t expecting them).

Roosegaarde is one of the more prominent voices in alternative, energy-efficient ways of illuminating the night, his most radical (and as of now purely theoretical) being the use of bioluminescent trees as street lighting. Others are also experimenting with glow-in-the-dark infrastructure design, like the UK-based Pro-Teq with its photoluminescent spray tested on paths in Cambridge last year. Roosegaarde currently has plans to install illuminated paths elsewhere, such as Japan.

Van Gogh lived in Neunen near Eindhoven in the early 1880s, and the “Starry Night”-inspired path takes travelers along locales associated with that history. It’s part of the launch of a major 2015 commemoration of the 125th year since van Gogh’s death, and while most of his Neunen time was spent painting country scenes and potato eaters, there is some of the magic of his most famous work in the unexpected illumination of the new path.

Van Gogh Bicycle Path (courtesy Daan Roosegaarde & Heijmans)
Van Gogh Bicycle Path (courtesy Daan Roosegaarde & Heijmans)
Van Gogh Bicycle Path (courtesy Daan Roosegaarde & Heijmans)
Van Gogh Bicycle Path (courtesy Daan Roosegaarde & Heijmans)
Van Gogh Bicycle Path (courtesy Daan Roosegaarde & Heijmans)
Aerial of the Van Gogh Bicycle Path (courtesy Daan Roosegaarde & Heijmans)

Read more about the Smart Highway project on the project website.

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