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Mar 10, 2022

Full speed ahead: more safety and comfort for cyclists

Which factors have an impact on how safe cyclists feel on the road? We are investigating this issue in the ESSEM research project together with partners from science, industry and cities. For this purpose, we collect environmental and personal data from cyclists. We derive ideas from the data on how to improve infrastructure for bicyclists and make bicycle navigation less stressful. For a safe and comfortable bicycle traffic!

Anyone who rides a bicycle in the city has experienced this: squeezed between parked and moving cars; always watching out for the next car door that might be opened abruptly. Lack of bike tracks in dangerous locations. Cars that overtake too closely. The pulse is rising, the feeling of insecurity, fear or anger spreads. This subjective feeling of danger can also be backed up with figures: in 2020, 92,247 cyclists were involved in accidents in Germany; 5.6% more than in the previous year. 436 of them died from their injuries. It is particularly dangerous within towns: More bicyclists and pedestrians died there than people in passenger cars. (1)

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Safe cycling thanks to big data

The ESSEM research project wants to change this. ESSEM stands for Emotion Sensing for (E-)Bicycle Safety and Mobility comfort. The project investigates which factors affect the cyclists' perception of safety and comfort. For this purpose, the project team collects and evaluates various environmental and personal data:

Emotion Sensing

In Osnabrück and Ludwigsburg (Germany), the project team is equipping 50 participants with sensors that are close to their bodies. For example, they measure skin temperature and heart rate, so-called emotion sensing data. The data shows, e.g., when and where cyclists subjectively experience stress or anxiety. The team also examines individual aspects of driving behavior or equipment – such as digital rearview mirrors or safety vests.

Contextual data

The project team combines this individual data with contextual information. On the one hand, these are weather-related influences such as air quality or precipitation. But the condition of the transport infrastructure also plays a role: Are there bike lanes? If so, are they wide enough or properly placed? Is traffic light timing long enough for a bicyclist to safely cross the intersection?

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Product ideas for more safety

Based on this data, the project team is developing ideas for human-centered products and services related to bicycle mobility. This includes a navigation service that determines the most stress-free route possible, but also smart, bicycle components. The team implements the ideas as prototypes to test them with users as early as possible and to further optimize those ideas.

Bicycle-friendly infrastructure

The second focus of the project is to improve the urban cycling infrastructure. By linking emotion-sensing data with contextual data, the team identifies which situations and traffic features are dangerous or stressful. It then reviews whether structural changes or a different road layout will have a positive impact on bicyclists.

For climate-friendly mobility

The product and service ideas, as well as the bicycle-friendly optimization of the infrastructure, are intended to increase the feeling of safety and the mobility comfort of cyclists. This motivates more people to use their bicycles in everyday life. This is how ESSEM promotes sustainable mobility in German cities.

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Broad consortium

The project started in January 2022 and will run for 36 months. It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV // FKZ: 19F2195A). We are pleased to be working with partners from different sectors on the project: In addition to UID, the IAT of the University of Stuttgart, the Urban Neighborhood Planning of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Department of Geoinformatics of the Paris Lodron University Salzburg (PLUS) are also participating. They are primarily responsible for sensory data collection and sensory prototype development. On the user side, the companies Porsche Digital GmbH, Bike Citizens Mobile Solutions GmbH and the German Bicycle Club (ADFC) complete the team. The cities of Osnabrück and Ludwigsburg (Germany) round out the consortium. The project team collects the data through test participants.

The author

Whether inbound marketing, social media or event organization – Juliane has over 15 years of experience in classic and digital communication. The specialist in German studies and communication scientist discovered her passion for topics from the world of UX at UID and has been taking it out to the world on the UID channels ever since.