We began our research looking at the work of urban planners including, Jeff Speck. Author of, Walkable City: How downtown can save america one step at a time. They conclude that Walkable cities are better. They’re more livable, healthy, happier and, more attractive to young professionals. They’re a city people want to live in. Included in walkability is bikeability.
Looking at Pittsburgh as a case study, commuters are traveling farther than is practical to walk. Biking would be a viable alternative to driving. However in our research we found that 50% of people don’t bike because they feel unsafe riding in the same lanes as cars.
Based on this information we started to explore redesigning transportation infrastructure. Throughout this process we came to find many proposals for alternate transportation infrastructures, however these solutions have hardly been implemented.
We found this surprising so we spoke to local bike advocacy groups who are lobbying for this infrastructure change. we came to realize it isn’t a shortage of compelling designs or public interest but rather, a lack of data. When these advocacy groups go to make their case to city officials they’re required to have hard facts to back up their requests.
One example they brought up in our meeting, was when they were requesting a bike lane on a road in North Side. The city claimed not enough people biked there to justify the expense. So the advocacy group’s solution was to have someone stand on the street corner and count bikes. This wildly inefficient and doesn’t consider the bigger picture. Was that the right road to place lane on? does it have the the maximum effect on the bike community? and will it make sense in the long run?
We designed a system that empowers the existing biking community to gather data to effect change. the system is composed of a bike mounted sensor unit that collects data about the users’ ride and sends it to a mobile application.
The bike unit is equipped with an HD wide-angle camera, a laser range finder, high visibility LED lights, an accelerometer, and a hazard maker button. The camera captures video during a ride to be used in the event of a hit and run or close call. In conjunction with the accelerometer it also records potholes and other obstructions. The laser range finder detects motion in the surrounding area and will flag video of cars that pass too closely. The hazard button is used to flag points in the video the rider wishes to view later. LED lights are used to increase road visibility, illuminate vehicle license plates for the video and flash to alert drivers if they drive to closely.
Data from the bike units on all cyclist with the system is aggregated in the mobile app. It surfaces actionable information to the user. The app is centered around a biking specific navigation system and includes features such as, heath and performance metrics, inclement weather alerts, quantitative road safety ratings, and access to your most recent ride footage which automatically flags important moments.
Unlike existing nav systems which only consider elevation, this system takes into account road quality, elevation, speed to destination, and more importantly, a more quantitative safety rating of each road from the point of view for cyclist to help plan your route.