Sensors on bicycles in Dublin and Belfast to crowdsource recording of road conditions

Belfast City Council and Dublin City Councils are to use technology from See.Sense, a Northern Ireland-based bicycle technology company, to record issues with the cycling environments in separate projects covering the two cities.

Belfast will use 200 sensors fitted to Belfast Bikes, and Dublin is looking for 500 individuals to attach the company’s ICON sensor-enabled bicycle lights to their own bikes, the light is to be offered at a subsided price

See.Sense said that their sensors will anonymously gather data on the cyclist’s environment such as the quality of the road surface, cycling routes, accidents and near-miss events — “providing accurate qualitative data and allowing the city to be mapped like never before”.

The Dublin project is described as “the world’s largest connected cycle light pilot” — 500 people who have access to an Android phone will be offered the lights at a heavily subsided price of €20 (RRP €90). Those who wish to take part can register via smartdublin.ie/see.sense. The scheme will run from August to November 2017. 

The ICON lights also use sensors to flash brighter and faster in riskier situations such as road junctions and roundabouts. 

Jamie Cudden, Smart City program manager for Dublin City Council said: “Dublin is an ideal place to test new and emerging smart city technologies. We are delighted to work with See.Sense to expose the city to fresh thinking in how we embrace new technologies. This project is one of four smart cycle pilots that we have funded with the support of Enterprise Ireland and is helping to put Dublin on the map for cycle and technology innovation”.

As Irene McAleese, Co-founder of See.Sense said: “The Smart Dublin Cycle Challenge is providing us with a unique opportunity to engage with the various city council departments and Dublin’s cycling community to test our innovative ICON technology. We work with data science experts at Queen’s University Belfast to gain meaningful insights from the data and to develop a scaleable solution that can be applied to any city in the world.”

Edel Kelly, Senior Executive Planner for Dublin City Council said: “We are excited by the potential for this project. There are a wide range of use cases that we see possible from the real-time sensor data collected from these lights. The data collected by the trial participants will be used to help us develop a safer and better cycling experience for Dublin.”

She added: “Projects like this act as an important precursor to Dublin hosting the global cycling congress Velo City in 2019 of which a key theme will focus on smart cycling technologies”.

Commenting on the Belfast project, lord mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister, said: “We are delighted to collaborate on this world-first pilot project. It allows us to access innovative technology for the collection and analysis of data, which can be applied to make cycling safer and more enjoyable for everyone in our city.”

5 Comments

  1. To whoever’s involved in organising and promoting this, I have a few questions, including but not limited to:

    1). What exactly is the purpose of this project? And I’d like to know the exact stated objectives; not just some wand-waving meaningless soundbites.

    2). I’d like to know how the data collected in this survey will be used to enable safer cycling in Dublin? How exactly will the results be put into planning for safer streets?

    3). What metrics will be used to measure any ‘success’ of this scheme?

    We already know, from data worldwide, from many different countries and cities, that the one thing that works to increase modal share of people cycling is safe segregated cycle infrastructure (SSCI). That’s the only thing that gets people from 8-years old to 80-years old out on their bikes, cycling as part of their daily activity. EVERYTHING else is a distraction, and often worse. Often these distractions actually hinder and undermine the implementation of SSCI.

    The recent ‘respect’ campaign was a case in point. What the heck were the stated objectives of that campaign? What were the metrics used to measure any success, or whether the stated objectives were met?

    BTW, these are rhetorical questions, because I know the answer in regards the ‘respect’ campaign. The respect campaign had no stated outcomes. No way to measure any success or failure. The respect campaign was a load of airy-fairy hand-waving nonsense; something for politicians to hang their hat on and proclaim that they supported cycling; without them actually having to do anything to support cycling. By advocating the respect campaign, they avoided having to make the tough decisions that actually work, and avoided implementing policies that actually work. And we all know what works – SSCI.

    Things like the respect campaign are actually worse and more insidious than doing nothing. It gives the impression that if only people showed each other more ‘respect’ then sure everything would be grand. Worse than that, the deceptive implication was that people on bikes are somehow equally responsible as someone in a 2-tonne metal box for any harm that might befall them. A similar equally despicable video campaign was recently put out by LUAS which demonised people on bikes as irresponsible outlaws who care nothing for their own safety, or that of their fellow citizens.

    So back to this light sensor thing. What are the objectives? What metrics are being used? How will the results be implemented? How will this deliver the only thing that we all know works – SSCI? I want to know why DCC is promoting a commercial entity if the above questions aren’t clearly defined. And I wouldn’t hold my breath in hoping that there is any over-arching plan to use data collected from these lights to implement SSCI.

    Commenting on this new ‘smart’ light, DCC seems to have swallowed the marketing cool-aid of this commercial entity in large volumes. On the DCC website, you’ll see members of DCC talk about ‘fresh thinking’, ‘excited by the potential’, ‘smart cycling technologies’, ‘embrace new technologies’.

    Odin’s blood! We don’t need ‘smart’ technologies. We don’t need ‘fresh thinking’. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel of safety, because we already know what works. We already have the answers – SSCI.

    Build it!

  2. We seem to get useful information from Googles traffic tracking applications, the data for which comes from people’s phones. We don’t have the equivalent for cycling because there is no way to identify a cyclist as distinct from a motorist or pedestrian if you just look at their phone location.

    I think it would be very useful to get more information about where people actually cycle and how fast they go. The surveys that exist like the canal cordon and the various counters are useful but very abstract. This new thing should be able to tell planners what routes cyclists actually take through the cities, what speed they go on various sections and how they are affected by rain/wind/traffic.

  3. Yes, I agree absolutely that we need information. But the bottom line is that SSCI is the only thing that will ultimately enable people of all ages to get out on their bikes as part of their everyday activity.

    My fear here with this whole ‘smart’ light is that DCC are going to use it as a distraction. I want to know how the information will be used. What are their goals? I want to see concrete plans in place to use any information in a useful way. DCC are promoting this collaberation with a commercial entity. Have they concrete plans in place to use any data to provide SSCI that might be generated?

    Remember, this is a commercial company producing these lights. That in itself has me ‘suspicious’ that things may not turn out to be for the societal good.

  4. @Wolf: DCC have used bus location data to improve traffic light times, including segregating bus lanes with flexible bollards and used the data to justify the bus lane improvements planned for the quays.

    This project isn’t quite the same because every bus has a tracker and every cyclist won’t have one. But similar principles apply.

    I don’t think they can give hard outcomes before they start.

  5. @Cian
    And I fully expect they won’t. But could they? Yes, they could. If I was approached by one of my residents and they told me they wanted to do a project on X – I always want to know:

    1). What questions are they asking?
    2). How can they answer those questions (they need to use appropriate techniques and sample sizes)
    3) How will they collect data (and in reference to 2), the data needs to be in an appropriate form that can be used to answer the questions).
    4) How will they analyse the data. And it’s crucial that they know BEFOREHAND how they’ll analyse the data).
    5) What’s the time-frame (for data collection, for data analysis, for write-up and presentation)
    6) How and where will they present the data.

    Of course, these are the bare minimum I want to know. I’ll bet you 3 cans of soft-drink and 2 chocolate bars that DCC haven’t considered most of the above.

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