In Europe there has been a large focus on increasing pedestrian safety by requiring protection capability of cars, both using regulations and consumer tests, however none of this involved the safety of bicyclists in car crashes. The increasing use of bicycles in many major cities leads to the expectation that the number of cyclist fatalities will increase in the coming years, unless proper actions are taken.
In the Netherlands, a country with many cyclists, there were 720 road fatalities in 2009, of which 69 pedestrians and 185 cyclists. About half of the cyclist fatalities were directly related to an impact by a passenger car. In protection of cyclists and pedestrians, cornerstones are infrastructure, training, visibility/detectability of the vulnerable road user (VRU), and VRU friendliness of the vehicle. The first three cornerstones are dealt with in several (national) projects; the latter so far gained little activity within the Netherlands.
Initiated by the Dutch Cyclists’ Union, the Dutch Ministry of Transport commissioned a project on the vehicle VRU friendliness. The overall target is to decrease the number of VRU fatalities and severe injuries. The preparation phase contained experiments and simulations studying cyclists’ movements during the last seconds prior to impact. These activities were combined with accident reconstruction tests of a dummy riding a bike that was impacted by a passenger car. A study to the protection potential has been initiated, aiming to determine the number of fatally and severely injured (AIS3+) VRUs potentially saved by different types of countermeasures. This study focuses on the Dutch situation covered by the Dutch BRON database, enriched with GIDAS. While the effectiveness calculations remain to be done, the study shows that cyclists hit the windscreen area on a higher location than pedestrians. For all VRUs, the windscreen area is the main injury source. In the cases studied, ground impact accounts for 20% of all AIS3+ injuries. AIS3+ survivors sustain in most cases a single AIS3+ injury (80% for cyclists, 70% for pedestrians), while the majority of fatalities suffered from AIS3+ and AIS4+ injuries to more than one body region. Cyclists suffer from leg injuries considerably less than pedestrians.
The current phase of the project is on the development and evaluation of a Proof of Concept of a VRU protection system. The major part of this phase consists of a Sensor Field Test, in which the vision system for classification of cyclists, pedestrians and “other objects”, to trigger an airbag and/or automatic braking system, is further developed and tested. This Sensor Field Test runs for a year in order to encounter enough close-to-accident situations needed to develop a system with a high detection rate in combination with a sufficiently low number of false positives. The Proof of Concept will also be evaluated in laboratory tests, in crash and precrash situations, using the “Beyond NCAP” protocols of Euro NCAP. When proven successful, a larger Field Test covering several European countries would be an essential step towards further implementation of these types of systems.
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