Credits: David Weigend

Citizen science for a bike-friendly city


Sustainable, compact and healthy, bikes are a crucial means of urban transportation. For many people, they’re the future of urban travel itself. But cobblestones, narrow bike lanes, heavy motor traffic and car exhaust fumes can dampen the fun of cycling. To study how safe Berlin’s streets are for cyclists, the startup re:edu and Futurium worked together to develop the citizen science project SensorBikes. This project helps Berliners to build mobile sensors for their bikes, to collect key environmental and traffic data while cycling and then share that data with the public.

Credits: David Weigend

From bike to SensorBike

It’s easy to turn your bike into a SensorBike and start gathering data with every trip. Thomas Bartoschek and his team at re:edu developed a simple guide to building a sensor box and attaching it to the seatpost of your bike. Each sensor box contains a mini computer, battery, WiFi module and several types of sensors. The environmental sensors measure temperature, humidity and the amount of fine dust particles in the air. Two spatial sensors on each side of the box measure your bike’s distance from nearby vehicles. The motion sensor records when you brake or your bike rattles over cobblestones. The GPS module saves all this data according to your location.

All of this is uploaded automatically - and of course anonymously - to the openSenseMap. The platform gathers open data about the environment. “Open data” means the datasets can be accessed and used by anyone interested, for free. Most of the platform’s data comes from fixed measuring points, which mainly monitor air quality. Once a single SenseBike has travelled along a road, everyone can see the data on how comfortable and safe its journey was (or wasn’t). This is also actionable information: if the data shows a busy road is particularly bumpy, the council can then repair the road surface. The map is also ideal for choosing your route to school or work. The latest SensorBike data can be viewed on an interactive map in the Futurium Lab.

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