Smart bike light trials show the way to better cycling
Professor John Davies, BT Chief Researcher Future Business Technology, speaks about two innovative cycling trials in Manchester looking to improve the experience for cyclists in the city.
Around 400 volunteers have been trialing smart Internet of Things (IoT) enabled bike lights, designed and built by See.Sense, to improve the cycling experience in Manchester.
At BT, we recognise that biking to work is an effective way to be environmentally conscious, but it’s not always an easy decision to make so we’ve been testing a way to help eliminate some of those hurdles. During the Synchronicity Smart Cycling Pilot* and the separate CityVerve project** insights on ride conditions encountered by cyclists, including road surface conditions, chosen routes and traffic hotspot areas were gathered by the bike lights and shared with our IoT data hub.
Thanks to both trials we’ve already made some interesting findings from the ride insights. For example, thanks to CityVerve, we were able to determine that cyclists using segregated cycle lanes in the Oxford Road area of Manchester travelled at an average speed of 19.4kph (12mph), which is 6kph (4mph) faster than their counterparts travelling on the road. Not only were they able to travel faster but they were also safer too and had better lane discipline than those cyclists using the roads. In the Synchronicity pilot we focused on deeper analysis and aggregated the information collected from the bike light sensors into virtual cycle counters, saving the city the cost of deploying additional infrastructure.
See.Sense is an innovative start-up company that was the winner of the BT Infinity Awards in 2016. Since its win, See.Sense has been recognised by Road.cc, the biggest online cycling site in the UK, to be the ‘Best Bike Gadget’ in a vote by its readers. The smart bike lights use advanced sensor technology to monitor their environment, reacting by flashing brighter and faster in riskier situations. They also pair with a smartphone app that provides additional connected features for the cyclist including crash detection and theft alerts.
The smart lights have been sending information to our IoT Data Hub allowing us to combine the depersonalised trial data with other factors such as weather. This will demonstrate route preferences and reveal the conditions under which people choose not to cycle – helping to identify areas for improvement.
Using the data supplied by the smart bike lights we were able to ascertain issues that cyclists were facing on their daily commute. This smart technology can help us to better understand the road blocks that face green transportation. We will be sharing our findings with Manchester City Council so they can analyse it and consider if, and where, improvements can be made for cyclists in the city.
The smart light sensor trial in Manchester is only the beginning of our efforts to improve the cycling experience. With cyclist safety at the heart of our work, we’re already running similar trials with See.Sense, in Ipswich, Dublin and Antwerp. Our Manchester trial provides the framework for better cycling conditions and the opportunity for all involved to improve their carbon footprint. By showing seasoned and potential cyclists the popular routes, road conditions and their level of difficulty, consumers can make evidence-based decisions on cycling.
*Synchronicity Smart Cycling Pilot has been running in three different cities (Manchester, Dublin and Antwerp), collecting cycle insights from 800 cyclists in total. The trial in Manchester completed in September 2019
**CityVerve Smart Cycling Trial collected cycling data from 180 users over a period from July 2017 to June 2018