Cyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups of road users. According to statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are over 45,000 cyclist injuries every year in the United States. Cyclists have a greater risk of getting seriously injured or killed in an accident because they are not protected by airbags, seat belts, or steel cages, like car drivers are.
Because of this, cyclists almost always face more devastating consequences when they are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle. In order to prevent this types of accidents, motorists and cyclists need to know how to communicate to each other and share the road.
Cycling Research Project
The interaction between cyclists and drivers is the focus of a research project that is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), and is being conducted in Vienna, the capital of Austria. The main goal of the project is to analyze how these two groups of road users interact with each other under real-life conditions, in real-world traffic situations. Researchers are using video cameras to record cyclists and motorists in real-life situations, and see how infrastructure affects the communication between them, and whether they respect one another’s right-of-way.
“Despite the common clichés, the communication between cyclists and car drivers does not consist solely of emotional exchanges involving negative feedback like horn blowing, name-calling and hurling insults in the event of conflicts” said Dr. Ralf Risser, the project supervisor in a press release. He went on the say that road users communicate in different ways in order to allow traffic to move more smoothly, by letting other cyclists or motorists know what their intentions are. For instance, cyclists use hand signals to inform drivers that they are about to change lanes or make a turn, which is why motorists need to pay attention to cyclists, and recognize their gestures, in order to avoid a collision.
Divers Need to Be Aware of Cyclists
Researchers say that drivers need to be aware that cyclists are the weaker road users, and they have to cooperate with them. Drivers must respect the right of way at intersections, and make sure they don’t follow cyclists too closely, or drive too fast when overtaking a cyclist. Infrastructure, and the way intersections are designed, is another important factor in cyclist-driver communication. Researchers have observed how road width and the number of bike lanes affect communication processes. They recorded cyclists joining the traffic flow 200 meters before an intersection, going straight through it, and stopping a few meters after it. They wanted to capture and analyze the cyclists’ facial expressions and gestures, so that they can see what kind of behavior causes conflicts between road users.
Finally, they will use the findings to create a list of recommendations for drivers and cyclists, that could help them communicate better, and suggest certain changes and modifications to the infrastructure that would help protect cyclists, in particular when approaching and cycling through intersections.
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