Through a new series of articles we’re looking at the health of cycling in the UK and the role data and See.Sense are playing in making cycling better for everyone. The below is the second article in this four-part series.
Cycling is more popular than ever, yet conditions for day-to-day cycling in the UK are far from perfect (something we looked at in the first article of this four-part series).
If we’re to make our streets as friendly for cyclists as they are in Amsterdam or Copenhagen then we have a lot of catching up to do. Fortunately though, in this age of information and technology, we have a new set of tools available to us. Tools that allow us to make quicker, more accurate, and generally better planning decisions.
One of the biggest questions facing cycling in the UK is: how can we create roads that are safe and convenient for all types of cyclists - whether they’re commuters, enthusiasts or newcomers? Much of the answer lies in data, and this is where See.Sense comes in.
When we founded the company in 2013 we set out on a mission to bring cyclists and See.Sense technology together to improve everyone’s journey. Practically, that has meant creating an intelligent bike light that detects road issues or unsafe routes that cyclists face on their ride. We call these ‘ride insights’.
When a person cycles with a See.Sense light on, patented sensor technology within it identifies 800 sensor recordings per second. We firmly believe in generating insights that are powered by technology but focused on people. This is why we combine those recordings with reports a person can make through the See.Sense mobile app. We’re then able to provide aggregated and anonymised insights on 4 key areas...
1. MOVEMENT PATTERNS
In order to plan for better cycling conditions, cities need to understand how cyclists are travelling on and around their streets. Our movement insights identify the most popular routes and provide detailed breakdowns of how cyclists are crossing junctions. They enable cities to design optimal cycling networks that are reflective of how a range of people cycle everyday, not just at a specific moment in time.
2. SPEED & DWELL TIMES
Closely linked to movement, cities need data to rapidly baseline the performance of their cycle network, monitor improvements over time, and see where changes can be made to make cycling more convenient. By giving cities access to speed and dwell insights, See.Sense is helping them unlock new ways of looking at their roads.
For example, we are able to quickly generate heatmaps of average speeds throughout a city, identifying potential problem areas such as particularly congested roads and junctions with long dwell times for cyclists. We can also use this data to explore opportunities for developing ‘Green Waves’ for cyclists.
3. ROAD ROUGHNESS
See.Sense technology maps road surface quality so cities can detect worsening areas and carry out preemptive maintenance. In 2017 the Department for Transport found the total number of cyclist deaths and accidents related to defective road surfaces had quadrupled from 17 in 2007, to 64 in 2016. If people only see dangerous potholes and cycling conditions then how can we hope to increase the appeal of cycling from A to B?
4. COLLISION AND NEAR-MISS EVENTS
Everyday there are a number of collisions and near-miss events that, for one reason or another, go unreported. As a result cities can’t see where they need to make improvements in cycling infrastructure. Our technology allows us to detect collisions, helping us identify hazardous cycling conditions in a city.
Through our integrated mobile app cyclists are also able to identify near-miss events, geo-locate problem areas, and tell cities where improvements need to be made.
At See.Sense it’s this balance between technology and people that we think is so important. Technology is a wonderful tool, but we must keep people at the heart of our planning. If we don’t we’ll exclude certain communities and parts of society, and develop smart cities that are only smart by name.
We’ll look at where cities and other organisations are applying our ride insights in a more detailed article next week but, in short, knowing where and how people are cycling is helping cities make more informed decisions. Decisions around how to improve the appeal of cycling as a mode of transport so we can decrease traffic congestion and lower transport pollution.
As a society we need to be smart and efficient in how we reach these goals. Getting more people cycling isn’t just a health issue, it’s a sustainability one. If we’re to meet targets around reducing climate change then the number of people cycling and walking around cities needs to drastically increase. Active transport has to become the default mode of travelling.
We’re a long way off that being the case, but we can use data to get us there quicker.