Cycling has numerous health and environmental benefits, but safety risks are hindering adoption. This article discusses how IoT can help address those concerns.
The bicycle had been widely adopted as a means of transportation until the early 1900s, when it fell second fiddle to the car. Soon after, rapid urbanization and skyrocketing demand for faster mobility significantly diminished its role in the transport sector.
Recently, however, the non-motorized two-wheeler has been making a steady comeback as an eco-friendly and congestion-busting transport mode. Today, around 7%
of all urban trips worldwide are taken by bicycle.
Compared to other mobility options, cycling offers unrivaled benefits to individuals, communities, and the planet. The bicycle is an efficient, clean, and healthy transportation solution that promotes physical activity while reducing traffic congestion and pollution.
Nonetheless, urban cycling faces significant challenges that hinder widespread adoption, and among the primary hurdles is safety. According to research
, people commuting to work by bike have a 45% higher risk of admission to a hospital due to an injury than those using other methods.
Fortunately, new technologies like the Internet of Things can provide users with a "sixth sense" to anticipate hazards and respond well in advance.
Read on for five ways IoT can make cycling safer and boost adoption.
1. Mitigating Bike Theft
A recent study from 529 Garage
indicates that two million bicycles are stolen in the U.S. every year, equivalent to a bicycle theft every 30 seconds. The study adds that 7% of the victims quit cycling entirely, while 20% buy cheaper, less durable, and less enjoyable replacements. Several studies
have also shown that many would-be cyclists avoid investing in bicycles for fear of theft.
The Internet of Things can help mitigate the theft of bicycles in several ways. For starters, users can invest in app-controlled security systems that allow them to perform remote activities like locking the bike, sounding an alarm, and even taking a video of the thief in action.
Additionally, GPS trackers linked to an app or web-based tracking platform can make it easier to retrieve stolen bicycles. Some GPS tracking systems even enable users to set up alerts to be notified when the bike starts moving.
2. Mapping Commuter Routes
One of the advantages of cycling is that it offers a more flexible and direct mode of transportation. Cyclists can avoid traffic congestion and take shortcuts that are less used by vehicles and, therefore, faster and safer.
IoT-enabled GPS trackers and mapping software can take this benefit further by enabling bicycle users to map preferred commuter routes and share them with other cyclists, minimizing the number of bikers using relatively unsafe routes. This information can be especially useful for novice riders who are still finding their way around the city.
Meanwhile, city authorities can use mapping software to create heat maps of cyclist activity and identify areas that require infrastructural improvements. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
, unsafe road conditions due to poor street maintenance are responsible for 13% of all injury-inducing cycling accidents.
3. Managing Traffic Intelligently
Vehicle traffic is a significant concern for cyclists, particularly those in cities with inadequate cycling infrastructure, where many are often forced to share the road with larger and faster cars and trucks. The NHTSA reports that
78% of bicycle accidents occur in areas where cyclists ride near traffic.
Keeping everyone safe requires traffic administrators to manage flow proactively and respond quickly and intelligently to changing conditions. IoT-enabled traffic management systems can help by providing city officials with real-time data on traffic conditions, driver and cyclist behavior, and even weather forecasts. With these insights, they can make well-informed decisions about how and where to deploy resources like police officers, traffic cones, and construction workers.
IoT can also help sync traffic lights with cyclists' movement patterns to create a more efficient and safer traffic flow. For example, if cyclist activity increases, signal timings can be adjusted automatically to ensure vehicles and cyclists move through the affected intersections more smoothly.
4. Keeping Drivers Attentive
Traffic safety data
reveals that 30% of all cyclist injuries result from cars striking them, often due to inattentive or distracted drivers. Some cities have responded by deploying in-ground LED lights
that flash to warn cars of approaching cyclists.
While this is a positive step in the right direction, the Internet of Things still has significant unexplored potential for keeping drivers attentive. For example, IoT-enabled systems can send alerts directly to drivers' smartphones or car dashboards when a cyclist is nearby. These alerts could take the form of an audible warning, a flashing light, or a vibration, depending on the situation and the driver's preference.
Pairing IoT with artificial intelligence can help create even more proactive accident-prevention solutions. For instance, if cyclists are frequently detected on the same route at the same time of day, the system could learn and automatically send an alert to drivers on that route.
5. Alerting Cyclists of Incoming Obstacles and Weather Changes
In addition to warning drivers of cyclists' presence, IoT solutions can also be deployed on bikes, street lamps, and buildings to help riders detect vehicles, obstacles, and even impending changes in weather conditions long before they become a problem.
For example, embedded sensors on street lights or buildings can detect pedestrian presence on the road or vehicles approaching from either direction and relay the information to a device mounted on the bicycle's stem. Such devices can also connect to weather sensors to provide timely alerts about changing conditions, such as a sudden gust of wind or an oncoming rainstorm.
Promote Sustainability with IoT Solutions for Cyclist Safety
Although the number of cyclists in cities is growing, cycling still comes with significant safety risks that must be addressed to achieve even greater ubiquity. Thankfully, the Internet of Things offers several impactful solutions.
IoT-enabled bikes can protect themselves from theft, communicate with other road users, navigate congested areas safely, detect potential hazards in their vicinity, and even promote infrastructure improvements by providing actionable data.
As IoT investments in cycling grow, more people will be comfortable moving around their cities on bicycles, resulting in a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.
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