Ground-breaking new research aims to provide unique insight into e–bike usage in Exeter

by | Mar 29, 2022 | News

The University of Plymouth is conducting innovative new research that is revolutionising the way in which we understand cycling and providing a blueprint for how we can better plan our cities.

Researchers at the Environmental Futures and Big Data Impacts Lab are using new sensor data insights gathered from Co Bikes – Exeter’s e-bike share fleet – to shine a light on cycling in the city, helping to improve the fleet service and providing insights that will help the Council plan to support cycling.

The insights used for this exciting new research are being collected through Co Bikes’ partnership with innovative company See.Sense. In a world-first initiative, See.Sense are gathering advanced data insights from the Co Bikes fleet, delivering insights that go far beyond the type of data that is usually able to be captured on bikes.

Using the patented See.Sense technology, Co Bikes can provide insights on route popularity, swerving and braking, speed, dwell time, road surface condition, as well as bike location and bike usage statistics. See.Sense smart fleet sensors contain patented AI-sensor technology to monitor the rider’s environment up to 800 times per second, enabling situational awareness around the rider that provides detailed levels of insight. Altogether, these data insights paint a vivid picture of cycling in Exeter that was previously unobtainable.

By utilising this data, researchers from the Impact Lab are conducting ground-breaking analysis into how e-bikes operate in the city. Route popularity and dwell time of Co Bikes users is of particular focus, as this will enable researchers to understand where cyclists are most commonly travelling and how long they are staying at their destination. In turn, this will allow the Impact Lab to gain an understanding of the provisions needed for e-bike users. Furthermore, by studying the origin and destination points of journeys from each Co Bikes station, researchers will be able to determine the effectiveness of each individual docking station and plan for the creation of future stations.

Additionally, OSM data and streetmap data will be plotted to examine the impact of hills and gradients on route choice. Research will also consider the impact of seasonal and weather conditions on e-bike usage in Exeter and assess whether this should be taken into consideration for future planning.

Yet, it is not only Co Bikes who benefit from this research. The data and research from the Impact project will be shared with Devon County Council, enabling the council to use See.Sense data to ‘sense check’ planned infrastructure proposals to determine if they align with existing route choice data. This will also provide an additional layer of data for cycle network planners in Exeter that can aid in the creation of a LCWIP (Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan) for the city. As such, this research is aiding the development of infrastructure that is safer and more effective for all cyclists in the city.

Mark Hodgson, managing director of Co Bikes, added, “Our partnership with See.Sense is enabling an unprecedented view of our e-bike fleet in Exeter. This new research being undertaken by the Impact Lab will provide a view of how our fleet is truly operating and provide us with a greater understanding of how to optimise our e-bike fleet for cyclists in Exeter.”

Philip McAleese, CEO of See.Sense said, “As we move towards a future of sustainable travel, the need for detailed, comprehensive data to plan cycling networks that are connected, safe, and accessible for all is increasingly clear. This project, in partnership with Co Bikes and University of Plymouth Impact Lab, is leading the way in creating safer and more connected cycling.”

The Impact Lab is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and aims to enable local Devon businesses to access expertise to move their business forward. In relation to the research, Dr Lauren Adams from University of Plymouth Impact Labs, said, “See.Sense data insights will reveal a previously hidden view of cycling in Exeter. The data insights collected through Co Bikes e-bike fleet will enable us to paint a detailed picture of the city’s cycling network and provide a first of its kind analysis of cycling in Exeter.”

Research is currently underway and is scheduled to be completed in June 2022. Looking forward, the research conducted through the Impact Lab study is ultimately highlighting the potential for data to be more effectively utilised to inform infrastructure design and improve cyclist safety. The data driven, evidence-based approach that is being exemplified through this research will result in the creation of cycle networks that more effectively meet the needs of cyclists, which in turn will result in a higher uptake of cycling and active travel.