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Smart Bike Tech Informs Better Cycling Infrastructure

Victoria is launching the world’s largest trial of a Northern Ireland-developed smart bike technology that it hopes will lead to safer and better cycling infrastructure. During the 12-month Light Insights Trial (LIT) 1000 Victorians will have access to a smart bike light that works with a phone app to gather and transmit data about how and where people use their bikes as well as danger spots and road conditions.

The technology, being provided by a Northern Ireland-based cycling tech company, uses AI-enabled sensors capable of monitoring a cyclist’s environment up to 800 times per second to provide granular and anonymised insights.

Government authorities in Dublin, London, the Netherlands and Manchester have trialled the technology but the Victorian trial will be a first for Australia and the biggest conducted anywhere so far. Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) is working with the cycling tech company, Deakin University and the iMove CRC on the trial.

Lack of data

The Manager of vehicle safety, innovation and technology at the TAC stated that the trial comes in response to a lack of data about cyclists and the risks they face on the road. He noted that the TAC is asking for all sorts of cyclists to register for the trial, whether it’s a cyclist that just likes to ride on the bike paths on the weekends, or someone who commutes to the shops or work, or someone who goes out for long rides on the weekend.

The aim is to understand all the different risks that different types of riders face and how we can best build a network that supports them – for example, is there a sort of infrastructure that works well for leisure cyclists versus commuters versus people who are out there more regularly, he said.

Once the smart light is affixed to the bike it can capture information about swerving, braking, acceleration, crashes, speed, time spent stationary at intersections, if cyclists are going through infrastructure like roundabouts and if they are encountering potholes or bumpy terrain. The data is then sent to the cloud for crunching by the cycling tech company’s operators.

The TAC is mindful of privacy concerns and participants will be able to opt-in or out of sharing data or set up privacy zones. Data captured by the cycling tech company is also subject to European data protection regulations. The aim of the study is to do anything that we can to benefit cyclists. The commission is interested in infrastructure and they want to see if they’ve been spending the money in the right areas and balancing that investment appropriately and making sure that people are protected, he added.

Using technology to gain information

Technology offers another tool to help plan for active transport. With this particular road-use group, the team has looked at technology to get more information because we’re not getting it via traditional means.

The TAC is working with cycling networks including Bicycle Network, Auscycling and the Amy Gillett Foundation to recruit a diverse range of participants and hopes to get the trial underway by the end of August.

The state government is in the process of delivering new cycling infrastructure in regional centres and metropolitan Melbourne as part of its $100 million safe cycling and pedestrian fund.

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