Glow-in-the-Dark Roads Become a Reality

‘Smart highways’ in the Netherlands mean safer driving with less environmental impact.

Glow in the dark roads
A rendering of glow-in-the-dark road travel. (Photo: Studio Roosegaarde)
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Club kids and eco-activists of the world, rejoice! Driving at night just got a lot more groovy and a lot less boring in the Netherlands, which is getting a grid of glow-in-the-dark roads. It’s part of the country’s new “smart highways” initiative, which means safer winter driving and transportation that’s decidedly less burdensome on the environment. 

Designers at the Dutch firm Studio Roosegaarde are the architects behind the country’s new transportation redesign. Their first measure is to paint roadway lines over with photo-luminescent powder, making lanes glow brightly in the dark, a lifesaver for a sun-starved country during its pitch-black and rainy winters.

The Telegraph reports that unlike average glow-in-the-dark paint, this powder is super-charged, meaning that even the limited sun available during wintertime is enough to make it glow for up to 10 hours at night.

The road also comes with built-in smart technology that alerts drivers when the temperature drops below freezing; large, painted snowflakes appear across the pavement when the air dips below 33 degrees, warning travellers of the possibility of dangerous black ice.

MORE: Let There Be Light: Bus Stop to Cheer Up Daylight Deprived Swedes


In coming years, the system is also expected to include a feature named the "Electric Priority Lane," a brightly colored green lane enforced with magnetic fields; as electric cars drive on it, they’re charged with free renewable energy.

Salon reports that roads with glow-in-the-dark and weather alerting capabilities have just started to appear in parts of the Netherlands, with plans for greater expansion in the coming year. Depending on how much the design cuts down on accidents, energy usage and power bills, Studio Roosegaarde may be charged with making smart roads a reality all over Europe.

In his interview with Wired.co.uk, studio head Daan Roosegaarde, explained his inspiration for the road redesign. “One day I was sitting in my car in the Netherlands, and I was amazed by these roads we spend millions on but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave. I started imagining this ‘Route 66 of the future’ where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us.”

Roosegaarde isn’t alone. Others are finding that transportation systems are more than a means of shuttling people from place to place, but opportunities to increase users’ quality of life. In Sweden, bus stops are being equipped with light sources specifically to combat the dreaded seasonal affective disorder that grips much of the country during its winter’s darkest weeks.

And in India, roadways are being utilized as a means of recycling plastic trash that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Since 2011, several Indian cities have paved roads fortified with plastic waste, making them impervious to potholes and therefore safer to drive. The initiative is also one viable answer to the nation’s question of what to do with plastic waste, a resource that usually ends up as landfill overflow.

As we evolve smarter ways to live, our roadways are becoming a means to address our most immediate needs, and it makes sense; residents of developed countries spend enormous chunks of our lives on the road. Isn’t it about time we made it more worth our while?

What changes in U.S. roadways would increase your own quality of life? Let us know in the Comments.

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