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Eyes on the Road: Reshaping the Future of Cycling Cities

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

A look at how cycling video data can shape the future of sustainable cities



Abstract

In January 2020, Pelation began a nine month DfT funded project under the T-TRIG (Transport Technology Innovation Grant) to demonstrate the cycling road safety impact of our technology.

This project also demonstrates the feasibility of capturing previously unavailable data on near misses, road issues, movements, and street perception - developing the most effective way to feedback this data to help authorities, planners, and businesses make better decisions about cycling related projects.



Our Vision

Pelation created REBO with a clear vision in mind...

To get people moving (whether they are commuters, families, children, or elderly) on a bike from one place to the next without a fear of safety on the road in a healthy city with clean air and open streets.



The Challenge

Cycling is a low-carbon and cost effective solution to emission and congestion problems in cities. TfL’s cycling analysis has predicted that 63% of car journeys can switch to bikes...so why is it that only about 3% of the UK cycle?


It’s actually not that cycling is unsafe, statistics have shown that cycling in cities such as London is nearly as safe as walking. The problem is that cycling doesn’t look or feel safe.


Whilst collisions are rare, jam-packed traffic grids have never been the friendliest place for cyclists. A Near Miss Study conducted in 2015 by Rachel Aldred indicates that on average, a UK cycle commuter experiences 450 near misses per year.

Near Misses: incidents that didn't result in harm, but had the potential to cause it.

The hostile road environment in cities and a combination of near miss encounters prevent people from getting on bikes or choosing cycling as their first choice of transport.


A mature cycle infrastructure (such as the Dutch cycle infrastructure) is an obvious way to increase uptake, but these plans are often slow with targets misaligned. The use of current existing cycling road data on the market give an overview of the problem areas but require leap-of-faith inference and assumption on specific incidents.



The Solution

Focused on the elimination of dangerous near misses and close passes, Pelation’s REBO uses IoT sensors, self-learning technology, and video analysis on bikes to improve the quality, robustness, and usability of spatial road incident data captured.

REBO is a cyclist near miss prevention dashcam that not only actively prevents near misses on road journeys through behavioural change but also allows cyclists to capture dangerous incident details (video footage, plate numbers, time, date, location) with just a click of the handlebar button.

Authorities have found that whilst they are able to reach a better understanding of general problems areas using existing cycling data, it is difficult to gain confidence in issue root causes without a more comprehensive understanding of full incident context. The use of REBO increases the availability and understanding of road data, generating not only a visualisation of these data points but also robust video data of specific incidents to allow authorities and stakeholders to prioritise challenge areas



The Process

Design Principles

It was very important to us that, on top of the technology and data, the fundamental design of REBO promotes safety and is preventative of incidents in nature.

We’ve injected the watching eye effect, a psychological effect to subconsciously prompt positive and more considerate behaviour, into the unique eye design of our product to nudge safer behaviour of those moving around cyclists and to humanise cyclists as road users. The application of this design is commonly used in the security and surveillance industry; we have also seen this used in the transport industry.


Implementation

Meet Pedal and Post.

Pedal and Post is an eco-friendly zero emission cycle courier company in Oxford and our partners in this trial. They use Pelation REBOs to ensure the safety of their team members and accountability of those moving around their cycle couriers.

“keeping our team safe is the priority and we've experienced a large spike in incidents in Oxford which is very concerning” - Chris Benton, Director

Oxford was selected as a test bed for this trial due to its size, abundance in cyclists, and general sentiments regarding existing cycle infrastructure. Pedal and Post uses push fleets and e-bikes to deliver across a large variety of routes (throughout both Oxford and Oxfordshire) on a daily basis - rain or shine. Throughout the initial lockdown caused by COVID-19, cycle couriers were also classified as essential workers and they continued to support local communities and deliver medical supplies with new measures in place. We ran REBO prototype units with Pedal and Post for two months - capturing all dangerous, illegal, and unsafe incidents their riders had.


The Result

Over the length of the pilot, we were able to generate a data set of 104 data points. With 77 more notable incidents sorted into eight key categories:

  • Close Pass - vehicle passing cyclists too close, below 1.5m

  • Traffic Violation - illegally parked vehicles, cars driving in taxi/bus lane, traffic light violations

  • Obstruction to Cycle Lane - indicating parked car or other obstruction to cycle lanes

  • Hook or Space Invasion - Manoeuvres causing evasive action or near contact

  • Heavy Traffic - cyclist filtering through heavy traffic

  • Other Infrastructure Issues - bad cycle lane design or no cycle lane available

  • Other Issues - other miscellaneous incidents such as cars passing at a dangerous place (ie. pedestrian crossing or blind bend), ‘scary’ passing

  • Unknown - No incident was identified


Examples of Incidents Captured


The incidents captured from the pilot were manually sorted into types of incident categories and exported into an open source geospatial analysis mapping tool.


Each data point displays a preview of the unique incident number, unit the footage was extracted from, date and time of incident, incident type, notes, video preview, and most importantly, link to a one minute video of the actual incident.





An interactive insights map of this pilot can be found below

We highly recommend having a look and play with the map including clicking through to see the video footage of each data point to understand the full extent of this project.

Map users are able to see Oxford’s key incidents with the added feature of being able to click through to the video link to view the real time footage.

Users can obtain additional context on each incident from the video and determine the actual relevance of this datapoint based on their purpose.


Initial Findings

Through this we were able to extract some obvious initial findings including:

  • pinpointing the key problematic areas for cyclists participating in this pilot

  • clusters of common incidents (ie. traffic violations such as illegally parked cars in city centres or common close passes on particular roads)

  • specific roads where obstruction to cycle lane is a common issue

These findings can be further adapted towards specific objectives and use cases.



Next Steps

The next stage of the technology roadmap is to develop capabilities to automatically identify and analyse cycling near misses using our device’s video footage and data.


Current cycling road data on the market give an overview of problem areas but require leap-of-faith inference and assumption on specific incidents. It is difficult to gain confidence in incident root causes without the incident context - our video footage captures this missing information which enables the determination of how near misses develop.


This aims to produce, for these near misses, actionable insights to determine their root causes and potential fixes. This will allow local authorities to more easily understand, prioritise, and implement action plans faster and with more impact and value for money.



Contact Us

If you are interested in working with us or hearing more, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Crispian or Liz at hello@pelation.com. You can also sign up to our newsletters at https://www.pelation.co.uk/sign-up to receive the latest updates!



About Pelation

Pelation is a cycle technology company that aims to eliminate sustainable mobility barriers through innovative design and engineering.

Our mission is to get people moving from A to B, when and where they want, without fear of safety on the road.




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