With the arrival of electric cars and a new generation of bikes that can be ridden on public streets, transportation engineers are grappling with how to make bike commuting safer, faster and more fun.
But even as they struggle to develop systems that work for everyone, they have also started to understand what makes people cycle and how they do it, said Mark Schmitt, director of the University of Minnesota Transportation Research Institute.
Schmitt and his team are using GPS technology to map people’s routes, their emotions, how long they have ridden and how much time they have left on the bike.
The goal is to provide the data to transportation engineers so they can make recommendations on how to improve public transportation.
The technology could also help people understand their own habits and motivations, such as whether they are biking because they enjoy it, or because they want to be more active, said Michael Schmit, a professor of urban studies at the University at Albany and a professor at the Transportation Research Center at Northeastern University.
The team also is looking at how the brain responds to different types of cycling, such one that is less intense, more leisurely or one that requires a lot of skill.
“We are really looking at the brains of people who are walking around,” Schmit said.
“It’s really a very interesting area of study.”
Schmitt is not alone in trying to understand the psychology of biking, which is a common activity for people in the U.S. But while most research is focused on people who ride bicycles to work or play, the data could be used to develop more advanced programs for public transportation, said David Shook, a transportation engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
For instance, some cities have introduced bicycle-specific parking.
Shook said the new study will help identify people who may be best-suited to bike-specific spaces.
“Bike-specific places, as a matter of fact, are already on the radar,” Shook told Reuters Health.
“It’s just going to take time to be developed and implemented.”
For more health and science news at U.K. and U.N. news, visit the UkHealth News website at the bottom of this story.