Mobility in urban areas continues to become more complex to meet the challenge of population density in cities. Indeed, it is estimated that by 2050, 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas (compared to 55% today). Cities are trying to prepare for this profound change by offering a varied, comprehensive, intelligent and greener transport offer. The high density and cohabitation between modes of transport in urban areas reveal a problem of growing insecurity, for which innovative, sustainable and efficient solutions must be proposed, adapted to all users.
A look back at initiatives and measures that have an impact on safety in the city.
Dangers in urban areas
Non-compliance with traffic regulations can lead to worrying situations. While the national road safety record is improving, accidents in urban areas continue to increase and now account for 29% of road deaths. The main victims, apart from car drivers and passengers, are motorised two-wheelers, followed by pedestrians and then bicycles and cyclists.
Thus, of the total number of people killed on the roads in 2018, 19% are motorcyclists, i.e. 627 deaths, 4% are moped riders, i.e. 133 deaths, and 5% are cyclists, i.e. 175 deaths.
For this reason, the fight against road insecurity is a priority, mobilising the public authorities to curb the number of accidents and road victims by changing criminal behaviour and, above all, by creating a new safety culture.
Over the past 2 years, safety devices in urban areas have evolved to keep pace with innovation in means of transport and with the aim of maintaining safety, while being aware of today’s ecological issues.
The objective? Reinforce the safety and travel ergonomics, for a serene mobility that respects human life :
- By developing specific innovations for users
- By putting in place preventive measures to avoid accidents
- By improving the mobility of vulnerable or fragile users
- By knowing more about the causes of accidents and injuries in order to preserve human lives.
- By designing and evaluating innovative actions and devices to inform behaviour and promote safer mobility.
Faced with these challenges, what have been the latest advances in terms of equipment, infrastructure, services and applications and regulations?
Infrastructures for safer urban mobility
When talking about urban mobility, the notion of risk is always to be taken into account. A risk due in particular to the large number of actors in restricted areas. Indeed, if a multitude of people move around on foot, by car, motorbike, bus or bicycle, there is a high density of traffic, and consequently, unforeseen events requiring increased vigilance. Whether a car is stationary, pedestrians are crossing the road, or there is road work, the dangers are numerous and cannot always be anticipated. For this reason, adapted infrastructures are necessary to support this traffic, guarantee the safety of users and reduce the impact on the environment linked to the increase in the movement of people.
Innovations on pedestrian crossings
New developments concerning pedestrian crossings could be observed. Indeed, in 2018, a lighting system was installed near Angers. The system starts up at the same time as the municipal lighting and illuminates the pedestrian crossing with two blue stripes on the sides. At each end of the stripes there is also a stud topped by a luminous point. The aim is therefore to attract drivers and protect pedestrians. The same applies to the “buffer zones” whose creation by mayors was authorised in 2018 by the CISR (Interministerial Committee for Road Safety) and whose purpose is to make it compulsory for motorists to stop between two and five metres from a pedestrian crossing when a pedestrian wishes to enter it.
In Paris, the city inaugurated its first 3D pedestrian crossing in 2018, made of white paint and giving a relief effect. It is an effective optical illusion, highly visible, even at night. The aim is to encourage motorists to slow down, to reinforce pedestrian safety in the 30km zones and to “make people aware, by an original and non-repressive means, that priority is given to pedestrians” according to Carine Petit, mayor of the 14th arrondissement of Paris.
The principle of retro-reflection (designating the light reflected by a marking on the roadway) on a traffic sign can also be used on certain pedestrian crossings in an urban environment, always with the aim of attracting the attention of motorists and getting them to slow down. Retro-reflection, for example on a sign with a prohibited direction, can reduce the number of cars taking the wrong way on the street, which is usually the cause of congestion and even accidents.
Intelligent traffic lights
Finally, regarding the infrastructure put in place, more and more municipalities are testing so-called “intelligent” traffic lights in order to improve traffic flow and guarantee greater safety on the road. This is notably the case in Malestroit in the Morbihan region, with the installation of traffic lights that change from red to green depending on the speed of motorists. The principle is simple, speed sensors are installed in the traffic light and if the driver respects the speed limit, the light turns green. On the other hand, if the motorist reaches a speed of more than 50km/h, the light turns red. The idea is to reward good behaviour. The faster they drive, the longer they will wait at the red light.
Bicycle protection: secure car parks
Insecurity in urban mobility also lies in users’ fears about vehicle theft. Indeed, theft and damage are holding back the development of cycling in cities and in France. 1,076 bicycles are stolen every day, i.e. 400,000 a year, a phenomenon that therefore fuels high expectations on the part of cyclists. According to a study by the Observatoire du Cycle, 95% of those surveyed want to see the development of secure car parks, which in their opinion is a priority in order to remove the risks linked to theft and encourage massive cycling.
As a result, in order to relieve road congestion, avoid accidents, park bikes safely and thus encourage people to use them, many players and operators are offering intelligent bicycle parking facilities. This is the case of JC Decaux, but also of the Véligo scheme in the Ile de France region, which provides Véligo spaces near stations and resorts, with the aim of providing easy access to secure spaces. Accessible 7 days a week, they offer holders of a Navigo pass the possibility of parking their bikes in a lighted, easily accessible shelter under video protection.
Connected accessories for the safety of two-wheelers
Sometimes the road is not well lit, fog or rain can make it difficult for people to find their way around town, or users of bicycles, scooters and other vehicles may not be visible enough for motorists. This is why more and more equipments are being offered, with the aim of ensuring the safety of users by reducing the risk of accidents on the road, and thus making urban mobility less dangerous every day.
The connected helmet
Starting with the connected helmet, this product combines preventive safety functions by improving not only the visibility of the users of these vehicles but also active safety since it perfectly protects the user in the event of an accident. This flashing helmet is equipped with a powerful front light as well as several coloured LEDs on the sides and rear. The front lighting can operate in 3 modes: medium, strong and intermittent and the LEDs on each side can be controlled independently. Thus, the user can choose to flash blue and red alternately, both together, or in a fixed position. This helmet therefore allows the user to see far enough to drive between 20 and 25km/h without being surprised by an obstacle.
Wink Bar, the connected handlebar
In order to maintain user safety on the road, Velco has launched Wink Bar, its first connected handlebar with integrated GPS light-based guidance system, a geolocation system in case of theft and intelligent headlights. Installed on any bike and controlled from a smartphone, it offers an intuitive and secure experience for the end user.
Initially, thanks to the tracking system integrated into the handlebars, as well as a warning system in case of suspicious movement, Wink Bar responds to the problems linked to theft. Indeed, the user can geolocate his vehicle in real time, to find it in France or anywhere else in the world.
With the patented WinkNav navigation system, this handlebar allows you to take your owner to his destination by proposing a route that he will have previously entered in the Wink Bar application. The user follows the directions to be taken (turn left soon, turn now, take the third exit from the roundabout) indicated by means of light blocks integrated into the handlebars. This means that the user does not have to constantly look at his smartphone, which he can tidy up throughout the journey.
Thanks to the intelligent Wink Bar handlebar lighting system, two headlights integrated into the front of the handlebar and with different operating modes allow the cyclist to be clearly seen by other road users. The headlights are switched on according to the ambient light and can be set to fixed (always on), flashing or automatic. Three functions to protect the user in urban areas, regardless of the conditions in which he or she is travelling.
The flashing fluorescent vest
In the traffic regulations, it is necessary to remember that the fluorescent safety vest is a legal obligation in order to be able to drive with EPDM (Personal Powered Mobility Devices) or NVEI (New Personal Electric Vehicles) during days with poor visibility and at night. Therefore, there are fluorescent vests with LEDs and integrated indicators at the cutting edge of technology, combining design and safety. The holder of the vest can, thanks to his remote control and various LED symbols, choose between 4 signals (left, right, forward, stop), reminding passengers and drivers to keep their distance.
The direction-indicating backpack
Based on the same principle as the flasher vest, there is a backpack with an integrated flasher system. Specially designed to facilitate mobility, it increases visibility during travel, sports and leisure activities. Developed for cyclists, joggers, skateboarders and even for scooter or rollerblade use, this backpack provides the user with increased safety both day and night thanks to the flashing LED panel and its reflective strips. The LEDs can display 4 highly visible signals (left turn, forward turn, right turn and danger/stop) and inform other users of upcoming changes in direction.
Transport regulations at the service of safety in cities
The recent appearance of new vehicles such as EDPM (Personal Powered Mobility Machines): electric scooters, mono-wheels, gyropods and hoverboards provide new solutions for getting around on a daily basis. However, their increasing presence in streets and public spaces requires regulation for safety reasons for their users and other users.
Thus, EDPMs must be equipped with front and rear lamps, retro-reflective devices and a horn. Their speed must not exceed 25km/h and their users may use them on cycle paths or greenways and traffic on pavements is prohibited. If the mayor authorises the circulation of these vehicles on roads with a maximum speed limit of 80km/h, then the user must wear a helmet, wear retro-reflective equipment and drive with the lights at a maximum speed of 25km/h. Also, parking on the pavement of these vehicles must not in any way obstruct pedestrian traffic. So many rules, so that these new vehicles do not hinder the safety of other users in urban areas.
During the Inter-ministerial Road Safety Committee (IRSC) in January 2018, the Prime Minister announced 18 strong measures to reduce road deaths. Several of these measures came into force last May. They concern in particular the fight against the use of telephones while driving, the fight against alcohol by extending retention measures, the suspension of driving licences and, finally, better protection for pedestrians.
Services and applications for city safety
Among the applications designed to preserve the safety of users in cities, Waze seems to be a suitable example. Just like Google Maps and other mapping applications, Waze offers users the ability to find out the speed limits in different areas, identify all kinds of incidents on the road, traffic jams and access their precise location. The application also offers faster navigation routes to relieve road congestion and facilitate user mobility.
As previously mentioned, Velco’s Wink Bar application (available with the Wink Bar handlebar), as well as other similar applications, allows the handlebar owner to geolocate his bike in real time and thus easily find it in case of theft. A notification is also sent in case of a suspicious movement of the bike, in order to prevent this possible theft. This type of application allows the user to better apprehend the various dangers that may be present on the road, in the city.
Traffic density and insecurity in urban areas require a permanent questioning of the devices to make all users more fluid and safe. Advances and major innovations are being deployed in terms of infrastructure, accessories and equipment, regulations and services, under the joint impetus of all those involved in urban mobility. Soft mobility must play an important role in tomorrow’s transport offer, which will only be possible if safety continues to improve in cities.