Making Cyclists Safer - Build18 Brainstorming
Build18 is coming up and I’m super excited. For those not familiar with Build18, it’s ”a week-long event of building, hacking, and electrical play. No rules and no pre-reqs: just you, your project ideas, and the stuff you need to build them” hosted by the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at Carnegie Mellon. I was really sorry when I missed out on building something last year so I’m coming at this year’s event with a bit more than healthy amount of enthusiasm.
So far, I’m still in the brainstorming phase. I’ve decided on a project combining my passions for electronics and biking. After a couple of close calls with traffic, I began wondering what sorts of things would make me, as a cyclist, feel safer and more visible to drivers.
As an engineer, my first goal is to get a sense of what gaps exist in current technologies. I’ve done a bit of surveying, but I need a larger sample size to really get a handle on what’s needed (I’m looking at you, comments box). Additionally, I’ve begun to look into what situations create the most danger for cyclists. My hope is that by looking at crash statisics, I can figure out the area that would most benefit from some sort of technological advance. (Please note that I think being safe on the road is a shared responsibility, not solely a driver/cyclist/pedestrian responsibility)
A parallel course in my brainstorming process is looking at what people have already thought of, or actually produced. This is to make sure I’m somewhat original in my idea, as well as seeing if there’s a product I can improve upon. Some really awesome bike-safety projects exist, such as the turn-signal jacket, bike speed jacket, bike brake lights, and laser bike lane.
After some preliminary research on bicycle crashes, I noted a couple interesting statistics:
- Intuition holds as intersections are the area in which most crashes occur
- A surprisingly large percentage of accidents occur when the motorist and bicycle are on a parallel path
I would really like to come up with some application that deals with the more fatality-prone situation that occurs at intersections, but I have yet to come up with something that would really be effective. I’ve pondered the signals that cars give to each other to indicate intent (turn signals, brake lights, reverse lights, horns, hand gestures, etc.), but almost none of these counter the issue of avoiding a car that runs red lights or stop signs. Additionally, much of the issue is that the right-of-way is not being yielded at intersections, both by motorists and cyclists. As I cannot think of a solid solution for intersections, my focus is beginning to shift towards the non-intersection case.
So far, my ideas are most along the lines of the Laser bike lane project. I think it’s a good start, but it doesn’t fully realize the idea of a ’safety bubble’ around the cyclist. A (somewhat dated, but still relevant) study by The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center found that approximately 28% of crashes occur when the motorist and bicycle are on a parallel path, thus the idea of a bubble around cyclists could really be applied to this situation.
My implementation would combine a number of the projects I listed above into what I believe would be a more effective package overall. I would have side-facing lasers indicating boundries on either side of the bike with the ability to blink in sync with a turn signal set by the user (and possibly residing on a jacket), as well as changing color to red when the cyclist begins braking. A rear-facing semicircle would create a signal to drivers to not creep up on cyclists.
Project Feature List (so far):
- Side- and rear-facing line lasers
- Lasers synched to both brake and turn signals
- Turn signal jacket
In any case, this is all a work in progress. A more technical post will be on the way once I start finalizing a design and selecting components. Feel free to make suggestions. Feedback is totally encouraged!
Sources of bike crash statistics: