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The Tech That Might Help Cyclists and Cars Coexist Safely

On the desolate streets of Manhattan in the course of the bleak early days of the pandemic, Rosemary Sigelbaum discovered that using a bicycle to work at Lenox Hill Hospital provided a desperately wanted respite from the stress of 12-hour days witnessing the worst of the coronavirus’s scary results.

“It was quiet, and on my way home it gave me time to decompress,” Ms. Sigelbaum stated of her commute between the Upper East Side and her house on the Lower East Side.

Those empty avenues of late March have given strategy to town’s normal cacophony of site visitors, simply as extra persons are discovering the benefits of biking to work: no crowded subways, buses or shared taxis. Bicycle firms have posted out-of-stock notices for the primary time in years. Sales in May skyrocketed 103 % in contrast with a 12 months earlier, in keeping with the NPD Group, a analysis agency.

But as all these new bikers are discovering the thrill of biking, they’re additionally discovering the risks of using on two wheels, particularly in cities.

Even earlier than the pandemic, bicycle fatalities in New York almost tripled final 12 months, to 29, from 10 in 2018. This 12 months, at least 14 people on bicycles have been killed. With extra bikes plying the streets with vehicles, buses and vehicles, there’s extra strain than ever to seek out methods to make the roads safer, for everyone.

The finest security measures are those who hold bicyclists and motor automobiles aside, advocates say. Many biking advocates are attempting to capitalize on the pandemic reputation of bicycles to push for extra devoted bike lanes.

It is “the primary method of addressing bicycle safety,” stated Kyle Wagenschutz at People for Bikes, an advocacy group. Indeed, cities together with Milan, Paris and New York have been including miles of motorcycle lanes this 12 months, with extra deliberate.

Still, bicycles and vehicles should get alongside, and security researchers are more and more trying to know-how for solutions.

Last fall in Turin — earlier than that space of Italy turned a pandemic epicenter — a wobbly bicycle owner skirted a line of parked vehicles on a jammed suburban avenue as a big sedan quickly approached from behind. In the morning drizzle, the driving force was centered on a four-way cease that was developing. Suddenly a warning graphic flashed on a show above the dashboard, indicating {that a} bicyclist was straight forward, and the driving force slowed to offer the rider extra room.

Such encounters are a part of a future imaginative and prescient of bicycle-to-vehicle communications that would assist stop accidents. The Turin demonstration, supported by Fiat Chrysler and the 5G Automotive Association commerce group, concerned a 5G wi-fi program meant as an example the benefits of high-speed communications amongst vehicles, bicycles, site visitors methods and metropolis infrastructure. (This has an alphabet soup nickname, C-V2X, for “cellular vehicle-to-everything.”)

The LINKS Foundation, a tech firm, had outfitted the demo bicycle with a world navigation system to find out its exact location and a 5G transceiver to convey that data to close by automobiles. The idea envisions a future the place the whole lot — actually the web of issues — is on-line to create good roads and good cities. Traffic lights will see vehicles coming, vehicles will see pedestrians at intersections, and bicycles will discuss to vehicles.

Some cyclists already use know-how, like Garmin’s Varia radar taillight, to warn of approaching vehicles, however it doesn’t actively stop collisions. Pedestrian and bicycle warning choices for vehicles use so-called superior driver help security methods. Some, like Volvo’s collision warning function, will even mechanically brake for cyclists.

Such know-how can scale back crashes involving cyclists and different so-called weak highway customers by as much as 35 %, stated Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

That’s an incredible enchancment, however extra will be achieved, as a result of these warning methods depend on video cameras and radar within the automotive; they can’t see round corners. Furthermore, camera-based methods depend on classification packages to pick bicycles from what generally is a cluttered background of mailboxes, timber, rubbish pails and phone poles. A bicycle-to-vehicle system would ship indicators round buildings and tons of of toes up and down roads.

“The problem then is to compute the probability of the cyclist’s path,” stated Daniele Brevi, a researcher from the LINKS Foundation in Turin who was working the demonstration. Understanding the doable trajectories of a bicycle and what important data must be shared with close by motorists is important to bettering security.

“It can’t just be, ‘Hi, I’m a bike,’” stated Jake Sigal, the chief government of Tome Software in Detroit and one of many founding members of the Bicycle-to-Vehicle Executive Advisory Board. The group, which incorporates Ford, General Motors and Subaru in addition to bicycle firms like Giant, Specialized and Trek, is working to standardize what security data must be communicated in these so-called B2V transmissions.

It entails not solely pace and route (is the bicycle owner going the flawed method in a motorbike lane?) but in addition data corresponding to a bicycle’s turning radius and most acceleration and braking — all knowledge that might assist predict a bicycle owner’s path. E-bikes, scooters and single-speed bikes would have totally different profiles. Smart indicators may additionally flash warnings when a bicycle owner was current to decelerate drivers.

Mr. Sigal stated the group deliberate to finish a number of area checks of B2V methods with Ford by the top of the 12 months. Researchers will give attention to reliability and accuracy to make sure that the knowledge drivers obtain is constant and reliable. Wireless interference in city areas and ample warning instances are different important areas of examine.

And whereas varied wi-fi methods might be used, the preliminary checks are utilizing Bluetooth, a pervasive wi-fi function that’s constructed into smartphones.

“We want it to be accessible to people who can’t necessarily afford a $200 bike computer,” Mr. Sigal stated. Android telephones might be used, for instance, by cyclists at the side of cheap sensors on bicycles.

In Turin, the difficulty of data overload additionally turned obvious. An occasional bike warning on a quiet suburban avenue appears affordable sufficient, however a Manhattan avenue may generate an awesome surge of warnings and alerts. So when to warn drivers could also be simply as important as what to warn them about.

While bike firms are eager on discovering energetic, high-tech options to enhance bicycle security, they’ve additionally put appreciable effort into passive security measures.

“Making the bikes more visible to vehicles is critical, and some of that is really low tech,” stated David Devine, international product director at Cannondale. Integrated daytime working lights and reflective sidewall tires are parts that Cannondale has added over time to enhance security, he stated.

Such methods are about how cyclists can “cut through the visual noise of the environment,” stated Eric Bjorling, model director at Trek Bikes. The bike maker has labored with researchers at Clemson University to enhance the visibility of its daytime working lights and recommends riders put on high-contrast clothes to face out. The firm can also be engaged on making helmets extra reasonably priced.

The important step remains to be to develop a regular that bike makers, automakers and metropolis planners can all use, Mr. Bjorling stated. “And if cars in the future are going to be more autonomous, this is going to be needed to help A.V.s avoid riders,” he stated, referring to autonomous automobiles.

Protecting weak highway customers utilizing networked communications is inevitable, stated Patrick Little, common supervisor of Qualcomm’s automotive enterprise. “It will happen over the next five-plus years.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Sigelbaum has encountered her personal challenges commuting on two wheels. She just lately broke a number of bones in her hand falling off a motorbike, “all by myself.”

But she added, “I’m still going to bike to work from now on.”

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