Friday Fun: New gear at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show will make urban biking safer
How can cities ensure that cyclists and motorists safely share streets? A new technology-enabled bike helmet may be part of the solution. Photo by Ciclista/Flickr.

How can cities ensure that cyclists and motorists safely share streets? A new technology-enabled bike helmet may be part of the solution. Photo by Ciclista/Flickr.

Is biking more on your list of resolutions for 2015? If so, you have probably considered what to do to be safer while biking in the city. Around the world, new policies and innovative technologies are being developed to support cycling as a safe alternative to driving a car. Even Volvo – the Sweden-based car company famous for working on safer cars – is working to make urban biking safer.

The company has teamed up with protective sports-gear manufacturer POC and telecom company Ericsson to develop an innovative new bike helmet that does a whole lot more than protect your head when you fall. This technological helmet communicates between bikers and motorists and warns both road users when a collision is imminent, even if they are hidden from sight. This video gives a glimpse into what the technology looks like from a cyclist’s perspective:

The new technology will be presented at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show – the world’s largest trade show – in Las Vegas from January 6 to 9. It builds on Volvo’s “cyclist detection system,” which uses radar technology to scan the area in front of a car and can automatically brake to prevent collisions with cyclists.

Technology improvements should be accompanied by policy changes

Volvo’s innovative bike helmet is one of many technologies being developed to make urban cycling safer. The Hammerhead – recently featured on TheCityFix – is a device that attaches to the front of a bike and uses blinking lights to guide cyclists to their destination, while also alerting them of potential hazards. Hövding is another creative technology that works like an automatic air bag for bikers. An even simpler innovation is bike lane tail lights that help protect cyclists by shining a laser bike lane on the pavement around them.

Creative technologies, however, are not enough to ensure that urban cycling is easy and safe. In the United States, about 700 cyclists are killed each year and an additional 50,000 are injured. Most of these accidents occur in cities. The risk is likely higher in lower- and middle-income countries. In New Delhi alone, for example, 78 cyclists were killed in 2012. People-oriented urban design that prioritizes safe biking infrastructure can help reduce these totals.

Sweden is helping lead the way with its Vision Zero initiative that aims to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries on Swedish roads. As part of the initiative, the country has made over 12,000 crossings safer with clear markings and traffic calming measures, and has redesigned 1,500 km (932 miles) of roads. Along with other policy shifts, these efforts have helped Sweden achieve a low traffic fatality rate of three traffic-related deaths per 100,000 people. New York City adopted a similar “Vision Zero” approach. Thanks to policies like reducing speed limits and strengthening penalties for dangerous driving, the city recorded the fewest pedestrian fatalities in 2014 since 1910.

Supporting cycling has a wide-range of benefits for cities, from improving public health, to reducing car congestion and decreasing emissions. In combination with policies for people-oriented streets, creative new technologies to support safe cycling can be an important step towards sustainable life in cities.

Look out for Cities Safer by Design – a publication from EMBARQ/World Resources Institute (WRI) to be released later this year – which details how cities can save lives through people-oriented urban design.

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