Safety and comfort in bicycle mobility

Research project collects data as a basis for improving municipal bicycle infrastructure - partners from science, industry and cities

KIT researchers measure and visualize where cyclists feel uncomfortable in city traffic. (Fig.: Urban Emotions, KIT)

KIT researchers measure and visualize where cyclists feel uncomfortable in city traffic. (Fig.: Urban Emotions, KIT)

The bicycle is playing an increasingly important role in traffic planning. Many municipalities are developing concepts to increase their bike-friendliness. This includes routes on which cyclists feel safe. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are analyzing when and where cyclists experience stress in city traffic. Their findings flow into the joint project ESSEM with the aim of making cycling in the city more comfortable and safer.

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.

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