Smart bike lights, data, and improved cyclist safety
iMOVE’s Light Insight Trial (LiT) project, undertaken with Transport Accident Commission, Deakin University, and See.Sense is now complete. The final report is now available and is downloadable below.
The impetus for the project was a “… strong and immediate need to investigate innovative methods to ensure the safety of vulnerable road users, particularly cyclists.” The innovation in this case was a smart bike light, and the collection, analysis, and visualisation of the data collected by the bike light.
The objectives of the project were to:
- Empower people who ride to participate in a trial which will evaluate a smart bike lights ability to provide road safety insights to researchers and practitioners.
- Engage with a range of people who ride to ensure participation in the trial is widespread and representative of the whole cycling population.
- Evaluate the technology’s ability to allow cyclists to overlay their experience on top of road safety insights.
- Develop a framework for the technology that complies with privacy requirements and provides adequate detail to be useful to road safety practitioners.
- Understand if technology such as the See.Sense smart light is viable as a tool to inform the TAC on its investments or public education in the area of bicycle safety.
- Establish if the technology can produce insights which are sufficiently detailed such that they can inform the planning, investment and policy of Victorian road safety partners.
The bike light trial phase began in 2021, and ran for 12 months, in and around Melbourne and Geelong. More than 800 cyclists took part in the trial, using the See.Sense smart bike light in combination with their smartphones, and collecting data. That data included crash events, near miss incidents, abrupt acceleration and deceleration, swerving, road conditions, average speeds, and dwell time. In addition to using the lights to collect data, participant riders also provided feedback via surveys.
That data was compiled, and a dashboard was created to both conduct analysis and visualisation.
The dashboard mean the data could be flexibly displayed, filtered by a specific time period, for a large or small area (e.g., an LGA or multiple LGAs or a small area within an LGA), for a road segment or multiple segments, for types of roads and bicycle infrastructures, and so on.
While the LiT trial ran for 12 months, the data collection period for the purposes of technical research reporting utilised a small sample of the data covering a 2 to 3 month period. With this in mind it should be noted that the data from the research report related to the trial should be carefully interpreted in terms of safety trends and decision- and policy-making. But even so the LiT dashboard “… showed strong capabilities to generate road safety insights.”
Report findings and recommendations
Already the data collected has provided “… a rich dataset for future research and analysis. The data is objective, and “has the potential to inform policy changes related to speed management, cycling promotion, bicycle infrastructure, geofencing, and e-bikes. The potential policy impacts of the trial underscore the importance of ongoing investments in the trial.”
The LiT has also set a precedent for developing robust cyclist communication and engagement strategies that can benefit other areas of road safety. And those communications could extend to young bike riders, with information on safer cycling routes for schoolchildren to be promoted by schools.
In regard to building on the work started here in the LiT, amongst the recommendations are:
- Expansion of the trial to areas outside of Melbourne and Geelong to create a network of advocates who can offer real-time data that is currently unavailable.
- Identification of concerns and risk areas, so the project team could mitigate them and improve the trial’s effectiveness.
- Evaluation of the lights’ effectiveness in preventing cyclists from being hit by motor vehicles.
- Evaluation of the effectiveness of the lights in improving safety and to determine their impact on not only driver behaviour and awareness, but also on cyclist behaviour.
In short, this project has proven itself to warrant further development, and additional work. Further work would also not only benefit cyclists, the focus for this study, but also could in the future inform investments related to the ever-growing number of e-scooters and e-bikes entering the transport ecosystem.
Impacts and potential of the LiT
The Light Insights Trial has shown us the potential for technology to engage and invigorate a key community group on the topic of road safety and how Road Safety professionals and agencies can work with them to deliver the best outcomes. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support and passion shown from trial participants and key stakeholders and will continue to develop our engagement in this area through continued work with this cohort of riders.
David Young – Acting Manager Road Safety Research, Insights and Evaluation, TAC
The Light Insights Trial has successfully investigated and proved the potential of crowd-sourced ride data in generating road safety insights by combining the ride data with a range of contextual data related to road infrastructure, road geometry, and traffic control characteristics. Our research focused on maximising the potential of the dataset in producing important road safety insights without compromising on data privacy and security aspects.
Ashim Debnath – Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering Discipline | Associate Professor of Transportation Engineering, Deakin University
Download the final report
Download your copy of the final report, Light Insight Trial (LiT) Research Report, by clicking the button below.
Click the button below to download your copy.
We also published a progress report on this trial, written by one of the trial’s cyclist participants. Read that at Understanding the cyclist experience to improve their road safety