Oldenburg site visit takes a closer look to Smart Cycling Innovations in Northwestern Germany
By Johannes Schering, Zora Becker, Janika Hintzsche & Roland Hentschel
Although we get used to online meetings in the past years and its potential to avoid unnecessary traveling, the physical exchange is important to understand the different perspectives in an interdisciplinary project like BITS is. The Corona restrictions in the North Sea Region are slowly relaxing what gave room for realizing a smaller scale site visit at the BITS partners in Oldenburg. In one and a half days the BITS project managers Ronald Jorna and Robin Kleine learned a lot about existing and forthcoming smart cycling initiatives by the city of Oldenburg, baron mobility service GmbH (baron) and the University of Oldenburg (Department of Business Informatics VLBA).
Baron Mobility service
There is not only a lot of research on the cycling domain in the Northwestern part of Germany, but also a lot of SMEs that push forward new cycling related business models. Ronald Bankowsky, the founder and innovator of baron, presented his new company and the related business potentials at the meeting at the inner city office of baron. The new company Fast2Work has launched two data-based mobility applications. The Bike Tour Guide (biketour.guide) is a free bike navigator and route planner. The website SteigUm.de personally converts the switch from car to bike into vacations, fitness etc.
As part of their BITS participation, baron will provide the Changers CO2 Fit app to its corporate customers as another ITS implementation. Team competitions as internal company challenges are intended to motivate employees to cycle (more) by making it more fun. The app records the traveled distances and calculates the CO2 savings compared to the car, as Janika Hintzsche from baron mentioned in her presentation.
City of Oldenburg
The new business idea was also a connection point to the activities of the city of Oldenburg. Since the beginning of April 2022, the new bike sharing service OLi Bike is available to the general public. Kerstin Goroncy, the cycling coordinator of the city of Oldenburg, explained in detail how the new offer and its organization works. Commuting is an important topic in Oldenburg. With the same motivation as Fast2Work and baron, more employees from the surrounding area should switch from car to bike more often on their way to work. Part of this solution are infrastructure based ITS solutions to make cycling more attractive. The thermal imaging camera systems are able to detect a group of cyclists to prioritize these at traffic lights.
University of Oldenburg (Department of Business Informatics VLBA)
Part of the municipal ITS solutions are also the induction slopes based bike counting systems. The collected data is processed by the scientific team at the University of Oldenburg (VLBA) as part of the Bicycle Data project as one of the BITS implementations. In this context research associate Johannes Schering introduced to the smart cycling innovations where the University is strongly engaged. Johannes explained the functions of a first prototype of SmartHelm - the project develops an awareness sensitive bicycle helmet that includes a headup display to provide relevant information in the cargo bike city logistics context based on measured distractions by biophysical sensors. The VLBA department is actually working on a new data portal (Behavioral Data Repository) to provide new cycling KPIs and awareness-sensitive open biophysical data consisting of EEG, eye tracking and GPS data. The recently started project INFRASense is working on a data driven assessment methodology for the bike infrastructure to support cities in the cycling promotion process. In this context the University is building up a cycling data lake that consists of citizen sensor data, traffic data, infrastructure data, accident data, reportings etc. New cycling KPIs on bicycle accidents and reportings on infrastructure shortcomings enable the comparability of different cities in terms of (perceived) traffic safety. SmartHelm and INFRASense are both funded by the German Federal Ministry of Digital and Transport as part of the mFUNDprogramthat supports digital innovations in the mobility sector since 2016.
The site visit was rounded off by a practical experience of the bike infrastructure as part of the bike tour. According to the Changers app, the duration of the trip was 17.3 km while 3.3 kg CO2 was saved. The participants perceived the strengths and weaknesses of the bicycle infrastructure in Oldenburg. Part of the tour was also a closer look to the accident hotspots in the city area. The project managers from the Netherlands were surprised to learn that it is very common in Germany to put a white bicycle (the so called “Ghostbike”) to accident points in silent memory to cyclists who were killed at this location. There is still a lot to do in the cycling promotion process - not only but also in the field of cycling data collection. All in all, although the number of participants was limited, the live meeting was a great experience after such a long time. We are looking forward to the next live steering group meeting in Aarhus (Denmark) in June.