Most documented single-bicycle accidents are related to bicycle path operation and maintenance. The ability to map the condition of bicycle paths and maintain them is a factor that could contribute to fewer such accidents in the future.
A mobile phone app was developed by the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI) to help develop objective metrics and methods for measuring cyclists’ comfort when cycling. Measurement data collected about the road surface can be used as a basis for planning maintenance and follow-up efforts.
To use the app, the cyclist mounts his or her mobile phone on the handlebars. Images of the bicycle path and surroundings are acquired, and the images are positioned using GPS. Using the accelerometers in the mobile phone, the app collects data about path smoothness.
Researchers have defined levels of these data indicating when the bicycle path is so uneven that it disrupts the quality of travel for cyclists. These values are compared with other measured values and with cyclists’ own perceptions along several stretches of the path. The measured results have been found to agree quite well with cyclists’ perceptions of path conditions.
Better information would be provided to highway administrators if the VTI app included a notification system to enable cyclists to attach information about any deficiencies they notice along bicycle paths. Further development and testing of the measurements are needed before the app can be used by the general public, as the measurement results currently depend on, for example, what mobile phone is used. Several practical problems also remain to be solved.
The project is part of the Vinnova-financed Cycity research programme.
VTI report 839: Using a smartphone to measure irregularities on cycle paths. A study of the possibilities.
Authors: Anna Niska, Leif Sjögren.
Link to report (in Swedish, with English summary)
Text: Karin Andersson