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New Technology Tracks Where Cyclists Feel Most Vulnerable in Traffic


A new development in understanding bicycle safety from Sweden-based company, Hovding, is as simple as pushing a button.

According to a post by Architect This City blogger Brandon Donnelly:

“Working with the London Cyclist Campaign, they distributed 500 yellow handlebar buttons. Cyclists were then instructed to tap these buttons whenever they felt unsafe or frustrated with current cycling conditions.

Every time the button is hit, the data point gets logged to a public map and an email gets sent to the Mayor of London reminding him of his promises around cycling. Both of these things happen via the rider’s smartphone.”

You can see some of the data tracked so far in this image from the project’s site:

New Technology Tracks Where Cyclists Feel Most Vulnerable in Traffic

This button project is one more example of how technology and cycling safety can come together to help improve lives for everyone on the road.

For cyclists, it can be useful to see real-time metrics from fellow cyclists, to see what is working for other people and what places are best avoided.

In another data-tracking project, Zendrive tracked distracted drivers in San Francisco doing activities like using their phone, speeding, or rapidly accelerating, and used that data to see where dangerous driving overlapped with crashes involving bicycles. Seeing those details laid out together can help cyclists understand where it’s most dangerous for them to ride, so they can avoid those areas or cycle more cautiously.

Donnelly writes:

“Not only does it tell you pain point locations, but it also seems to suggest the primary cycling routes. I think this is a brilliant initiative because it’s entirely user-centric. It’s telling you how people feel on the ground.”

And for lawmakers and city planners, understanding what it’s really like to be on a bike on a city’s streets (and how many cyclists are out there every day) can help them make better decisions about where and how to build roads, and how to flow every kind of vehicle and pedestrian through traffic every day.

If the name of the company behind this project, Hovding, sounds familiar to you, it is probably because of their one-of-a-kind airbag helmet launched a few years ago.

This helmet doesn’t look like an average helmet; instead, the helmet starts as a simple structure the rider wears around their neck. It detects the rider’s movement and, in the event of a crash, the helmet will inflate to provide neck alignment and absorb the shock on the collision.

These are just a few of the many innovations in cycling safety and culture that have come from European countries, where cycling is much more common and is more often considered seriously as part of a city’s infrastructure. European cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen regularly make changes to their urban planning to improve efficiency and safety for cyclists to make their city as a whole function better.

Once we adopt similar attitudes in the US and begin to take the needs of cyclists as seriously as the needs of drivers, we will see improvements for everyone who uses our streets every day.

Hovding has supposedly been looking for new cities where they can test out their bicycle button to continue tracking data. If you want them to come to the Bay Area, get in touch with them! When we help more people understand what it’s like to be a cyclist, we’ll make the world safer for everyone.