Coutesy of Foster + Partners
Face it. Streets, more times than not, resemble clogged arteries blocked with traffic. As more cars take to the road, more and more lanes are lost to construction (maintenance) and road expansion projects, which for a length of time only makes the problem worse, long before it gets better. That all said, are connected, self-driving cars really the answer? Not only that, there’s the ongoing air quality debate until we identify a viable alternative, sustainable energy solution that can work for all.
This all brings me to the long-ago-invented bicycle. Bike commuting increased 105% from 2000 to 2013 in Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFCs) – well above the national average of 62% – according to the National Household Travel Survey. That’s just here in the U.S. where commuting on bike is far behind other places in the world. As urban cycling gets more popular, city and transportation planners are forced to rethink street design.
In smart cities, the transportation network of the future isn’t about cars. It’s centered on mobility – moving people efficiently from point A to point B. Yes, autonomous vehicles and mass transit are part of the equation, but so are bikes. Often the quickest way to navigate congested city streets is by bicycle. And as technology changes transportation, a light footprint is key. Yes, bike-specific signals, intersection bumpouts, protected lanes, bike boxes or dedicated bike paths are all part of the engineering solution. But, lightweight, flexible and connected is the mode of the future. (See where I’m going?)
Enter the connected bicycle. What’s the one piece of technology that is reinventing the bike? The highly connected, ever mobile smartphone. Just think: user-generated, real-time data from cyclists that’s captured on smartphones could be used to create smarter transportation grids. There are a number of apps that capture cadence, speed, route, incline, mileage and calories burned on each bike trip that are sent to the cloud. For example, riders could access Strava’s Global Heatmap and the Stress Map on the Ride Report app, which shows the best and worst city bike routes.
Another technology solution is the use of sensors. In the future, commuters will all talk to one another. Imagine a day when sensors in cars and bikes share data on position, speed and even route. Volvo, Ericsson, and helmet maker POC are working on designing a solution that lets drivers easily detect cyclists even around a blind corner. Another solution being developed is where LED bicycle lights with integrated sensors that detect on-coming vehicles and intensify the brightness and pattern of light for greater visibility, especially when approached from behind.
What are some other examples of connected bike tech in the works? Explore a few of these links to see what we hope to see more of on the smart cities streets of tomorrow.
Cool Connected Bike Tech
David Fambrough is a technical writer for Mouser Electronics. He’s adamant that Lost in Space, Star Trek and James Bond have had a strong role in inspiring innovation and new design.
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