Iowa Biking Simulator Studies Child and Adult Cycling Behavior

Posted on June 15, 2012

I’ve often reported on various driving simulators across the country that allow teenagers to experience the consequences of distracted driving or driving under the influence, etc.  But a new story shows that not all simulators necessarily have to involve motor vehicles.

In Iowa City, Iowa, a bike riding simulator has been developed that allows researchers to study bike behavior in kids and adults alike.  The technology involves a bike placed on a raised platform surrounded by three walls that act as television screens which display virtual roads both in front of a rider and in their peripheral vision.  The simulator, which is known as Bike Town, can be found on the campus of the University of Iowa.

The simulators were developed in response to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which shows 51,000 people on bikes sustained an injury in 2009, with 8,000 of those persons being less than 14 years of age.  630 people across all age groups suffered a fatality.

After initial testing on this first bike, which can gauge the difference between children’s biking habits and those of adults, engineers hope to create a second simulated environment across the hall.  This will allow two riders to pilot their bikes in tandem, with a virtual likeness of the other individual riding next to them.  Researchers then want to examine how riding behavior changes when an adult rides with a child or two children ride together.

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