October 23, 2020
Cycling has never been more popular. With COVID-19 leading people to seek socially distanced recreation options — as well as alternatives to mass transit for their commutes — sales of bicycles are soaring.
Yet while biking may be growing ever more popular, it is also becoming somewhat more risky. With fewer cars and trucks on the road, traffic safety observers say that driving behavior has become considerably more reckless.
So how can drivers and cyclists co-exist peacefully and share the road without conflict? Technology may be the answer.
In a recent New York Times article, it’s reported that bicycle fatalities in the city more than tripled between 2018 and 2019. Those numbers left city officials scrambling for new ways to create safer road conditions.
One obvious answer was additional bike lanes. New York and other major metros have substantially increased their number of protected bike lanes in recent years. This, along with focusing on making problem intersections safer, has been a key area of emphasis.
However, these solutions can only go so far. To take the next step, it may be necessary to seek technological solutions. The New York Times outlines one such scenario:
“Last fall in Turin — before that area of Italy became a pandemic epicenter — a wobbly cyclist skirted a line of parked cars on a jammed suburban street as a large sedan rapidly approached from behind. In the morning drizzle, the driver was focused on a four-way stop that was coming up.
Suddenly a warning graphic flashed on a display above the dashboard, indicating that a bicyclist was directly ahead, and the driver slowed to give the rider more room.”
“Such encounters are part of a future vision of bicycle-to-vehicle communications that could help prevent accidents. The Turin demonstration, supported by Fiat Chrysler and the 5G Automotive Association trade group, involved a 5G wireless program meant to illustrate the advantages of high- speed communications among cars, bicycles, traffic systems and city infrastructure. (This has an alphabet soup nickname, C-V2X, for “cellular vehicle-to-everything.”) The LINKS Foundation, a tech company, had outfitted the demo bicycle with a global navigation device to determine its precise location and a 5G transceiver to convey that information to nearby vehicles. The concept envisions a future where everything — literally the internet of things — is online to create smart roads and smart cities. Traffic lights will see cars coming, cars will see pedestrians at intersections, and bicycles will talk to cars.”
For cyclists who are used to being harried by aggressive drivers in traffic or cut-off by motorists who aren’t paying attention, such technological advances are a welcome addition to their safety tool kits. Today cyclists have access to some limited tools to prevent crashes (such as Garmin’s radar taillight, which warns of approaching cars). Drivers, too, can opt for safety packages that will automatically warn them when cyclists are visible (and even auto-brake in some cases).
While these tools are very helpful, they rely on cameras and cannot see around corners. They also sometimes have difficulty distinguishing bikes from other objects. Yet as technology matures, cyclists will be much better protected when enjoying a ride.
Gary Brustin is a lifelong cyclist and a specialist in bicycle accident law. In fact, these are the only types of cases that he accepts. If you’ve been injured in a collision or have suffered from the negligence of another, we urge you to contact Gary for a complimentary consultation.