Cape Town’s Cat’s Eye Traffic Signals

I’m ridiculously excited about this.
An interesting development in the interesting development which is taking place at the bottom of Buitengracht ahead of the World Cup is the addition of cat’s eye traffic signals to the junction with Western Boulevard. These nifty little lights run right the way across the junction, along the painted white line of the lights. When the signal is red, they show red and when the lights change to green, the cat’s eyes switch off, effectively disappearing.

Here’s one of them in action:

cat's eyes

That’s one just in front of the white line. And on the right is a guy selling newspapers who is already bored of seeing cat’s eyes traffic signals.
This is an especially good junction to launch this new technology in Cape Town, since there are six lanes leading up to these lights, meaning that the traditional traffic signals are pretty sparse.
Which is probably why they put them there.

It’s something that I haven’t heard of anywhere else in the world, although I’m sure to have some Dutch bloke on here saying something along the lines of “Yesh, obwioushlee we have had theesh in Hamshterjam for sheveral yearsh already” or something similar. It just sounds like something that the Netherlands would have thought of first.

Probably the best view of these lights in action is from the pedestrian footbridge spanning the inbound lane of Buitengracht. You know, the bridge that wasn’t actually there last week?

It’s amazing how much positive change the World Cup has brought to Cape Town and its infrastructure already.

EDIT: OK, apparently some people just aren’t getting it. I didn’t think it was so hard, but in order to enlighten the unenlightened and in the interests of road safety, I have been to the 6000 miles… graphic design office and asked them to come up with a diagram for me.

Times are obviously tough in the graphic design department right now.

But anyway. Here are three lanes of the junction in question. You’d be in one of these if you were turning right into Western Boulevard. 
Now, imagine that you’re in a car in Lane A. Look how far you are from the traditional traffic signal on the right hand side of the road.  Blimey. You might miss that and cause a nasty accident by colliding with another motor vehicle traveling across your intended route.

Fortunately, in the road in front of all of the lanes are the new cat’s eyes. You can see them on the diagram above represented as small rectangles with red dots in. Which is pretty accurate, because that’s actually what they look like IN REAL LIFE!
They are LED cat’s eyes, which mean that they shine whether or not you have your lights on, whether or not it is day or night. And when the traffic lights are set to red, the two sets of cat’s eyes in front of each lane shine bright red too.
When the lights change to green and you are free to go, the cat’s eyes switch off and, because they then become just small discs of flat metal in the road, you don’t see them. Astounding.

Thus, it’s like having road-based traffic lights right the way across the junction, and not just on either side of this (very wide) interchange.

Get it now?

4 thoughts on “Cape Town’s Cat’s Eye Traffic Signals

  1. They introduced cat’s eyes with flashing LEDs in this country several years back, but then suddenly they withdrew them – apparently they had to potential to trigger epileptic fits, because they allegedly flashed 100 times per second, so the Highways Agency had to suspend their use. Not heard about them being synchronised to traffic light sequences, though!
    .-= Helga Hansen´s last blog ..Cat napper =-.

  2. And, of course, given that most people (here at least) seem to overhang the white line anyway, they wouldn’t necessarily see them turn off. Still, that’s only likely to cause road rage rather than an accident.

    And they make the road a little prettier which is always worthwhile 🙂
    .-= Ro´s last blog ..The Magic of Swords =-.

  3. Don’t get it, sorry. Drove past them now, and seeing as they are only at the lights (rather than running back 20 metres or whatever), by the time you get to them they can’t influence your behaviour substantially. You’ll have spotted the red and stopped, or have gone through it already. Plus, I don’t think visibility from the outside lane is at all aided by this, unless you happen to have a monster truck on either side of you. They may be cool, but they appear to be a pointless waste of money.
    .-= Jacques´s last blog ..‘Twas Easter and the slithey toves did gyre and gimble on the roads =-.

  4. Jacques > Eh? Are we talking about the same thing? You can see them from the new footbridge – and they’re right across the lanes. Try them at night – they’re wonderful.

    Leave a Reply