Karlsruhe Institute of Technology: Safety and comfort in bicycle mobility

Whether with muscle power alone or electrified: According to the Federal Ministry of Transport, 80 percent of Germans use the bicycle in everyday life and in their free time, 55 percent consider it an indispensable means of transport. “How comfortable or uncomfortable they feel on the road depends on many factors, such as the road surface, the proximity of passing cars, the clarity of intersections and the waiting time at traffic lights,” says Dr. Peter Zeile, Head of the Urban Emotions research initiative at the Urban District Planning professorship at the Institute of Urban and Landscape Design at KIT.

Recommendations for data-based cycling planning

The experts from urban planning, architecture and sociology from Urban Emotions are part of the research consortium ESSEM – Emotion Sensing for (E-)Bike Safety and Mobility Comfort, which examines all these factors and influences by summarizing environmental and personal data in order to evaluate existing bicycle infrastructures. One goal of the three-year joint project with partners from science, industry and cities, which started in January 2022, is to develop recommendations for methods and actions for data-supported cycling traffic planning. Among other things, a practical, easy-to-use instrument for evaluating bicycle infrastructure with the support of emotion-sensing data is to be created. Technical sensors are used to measure the perception of emotions.

Sensors measure driving stress

In the course of ESSEM, the KIT researchers are investigating where the main traffic flows of bicycle traffic lead in the participating cities of Osnabrück and Ludwigsburg. In addition, they collect 350 data sets from test persons, whose skin conductivity and body temperature – as stress indicators – are measured with sensors close to the body during their bicycle rides through the two model cities. In combination with geodata and images from action cameras, stress-inducing road and traffic situations can be identified from the emotion measurements. “The question of whether places can be identified that are not statistically known to be accident-prone, but are perceived as dangerous, is particularly exciting,” says Zeile. In ESSEM, the scientists from Urban Emotions want to further refine the basic measurement algorithms that have already been used in several international measurement campaigns. “ESSEM is more than bundling individual projects. I am convinced that we, as research partners, will be able to determine the influences on bicycle safety and mobility comfort when cycling more precisely,” says Zeile.

The Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) is funding ESSEM with a total of around 1.65 million euros, of which Urban Emotions will receive 329,000 euros. The project is coordinated by the Institute for Ergonomics and Technology Management IAT at the University of Stuttgart, which cooperates with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and Organization IAO. In addition to the KIT, project partners are the Paris Lodron University of Salzburg, Porsche Digital GmbH in Ludwigsburg, Bike Citizens Mobile Solutions GmbH in Berlin, User Interface Design GmbH in Ludwigsburg and the Allgemeine Deutsche Fahrrad-Club as well as the city of Ludwigsburg as an associated partner.

As “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for society and the environment. The aim is to make significant contributions to global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information. To this end, around 9,600 employees work together on a broad disciplinary basis in natural sciences, engineering, economics, humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 23,300 students for responsible tasks in society, business, and science through research-oriented university studies. The innovation activity at KIT bridges the gap between knowledge and application for social benefit, economic prosperity and the preservation of our natural foundations of life.

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