Walking and cycling charity Sustrans is borrowing technology aimed at cars to help engineers and town planners design streets that make cycling convenient and accessible for more people.
The charity has adapted AutoTURN software, which until now has been used to analyse and accommodate the movement of vehicles, to simulate accurate real-life movements of people who cycle. This, they said, "helps identify potential barriers on paths, such as narrow cycle tracks, and ensure smooth flow and turn for different types of cycles, including tricycles, tandems and cargo bikes".
As a result, engineers can get real-time feedback at the design stage on whether a path or a cycle track is accessible and practical for different types of cycle.
To help assess the turning characteristics of cycles, Sustrans carried out a series of field tests to determine a cycle’s manoeuvrability, including: how quickly someone can steer from a straight line into a curve, how fast someone can travel around a tight bend, and how far they need to lean to do so.
Towns and cities across the UK have prioritised planning for the car for decades, Sustrans said, and the industry needs to step up its game in a bid to ensure cycling infrastructure is designed to consistent high standards to help make cycling inclusive for everyone.
“The lack of consistent, high quality cycling infrastructure across the UK means that many people don’t see cycling as an everyday means of transport," said Giulio Ferrini, head of built environment at Sustrans. Only 7% of disabled people cycle in the UK, but 33% would like to start.
“We believe this tool can play an instrumental role in opening up cycling to more people, as it clearly displays in a user-friendly way how different cycles move through space and their varying space requirements. This will ensure that local authorities and partners design streets and urban environments that are more practical, accessible and inclusive.”
Isabelle Clement, director of Wheels for Wellbeing, said the new tool will help to transform designers’ thinking around cycling and inclusivity:
“Too often we find that cycle infrastructure fails to accommodate the needs of non-standard cycles, which not only excludes many disabled cyclists, but also family and freight cyclists who use larger cycles. With this exciting new piece of software, however, we have something that could radically change designers’ perception of cycling, and which could ultimately lead to more accessible and inclusive cycle infrastructure.”
Sustrans designers are using AutoTURN to ensure their designs are accessible and practical for more people; the bike simulation tools will be commercially available next year.