Lot’s of activity behind – more ahead

As this year inevitably comes to an end, it’s time to summarize my personal bicycle-related highlights of 2013 and try to sketch what lies ahead.

First things first: I’ve officially started my PhD project last summer and I’m very thankful to those who make this next step possible. During the last few years I’ve loosely worked on several mobility-related topics. Primarily on bicycle routing applications. Now the time has come to bundle up all the findings and developments and to focus on concrete research questions.
My PhD project has the working title “Analyzing, modeling and assessing bicycle road safety with GIS” and can be split up into three sub-topics:

  • Systematic analysis of bicycle accidents in an explicitly spatial context.
    For this I use bicycle accident data for the years 2002-2011. The 3,096 incidents in the city of Salzburg/Austria are georeferenced and contain all details reported by the police. The biggest challenge in this context is the absence of any statistical population. Hence it won’t be possible to calculate any risk exposure. But still, for anomaly detection the data seem to be very promising.
  • Development of an road network assessment model.
    Based on previous research, I’m going to refine the indicator-based assessment model (Loidl & Zagel 2013 internet, in German). This approach makes use of the power of geographical information systems and allows for a global assessment of road network quality.
  • Application of the assessment model in a planning context.
    The indicator-based assessment model should be adapted in a way that it can be employed in a traffic planning context. The idea is to use it for weak-point analysis and for simulation purposes.

The research conducted for this PhD project is widely triggered by funded projects. Thus the ideas as such are rooted in real-world problems. In turn, all generated results can be tested and applied immediately in practical environments. Just like this project …

radlkarte.fwA very nice application which was launched in 2012 has been extended this year. The web-based bicycle routing application “radlkarte.eu” is now available for the city of Salzburg and its neighboring municipalities in Bavaria. The application primarily addresses commuters who use their bicycles as an efficient, flexible and healthy mobility alternative. Funded by the city administration of Salzburg, the federal state of Salzburg and the EU Interreg IV program, the routing application is an integral part of the regional long-term bicycle policy.
 Z_GIS’ contribution to the application comprises the data management and the provision of the routing network (the web services has been developed by a partner company, TraffiCon internet). The innovative part of the routing application is the explicit consideration of bicycle safety as a routing criterion. For the calculation of this safety index the indicator-based assessment model has been used. Here the challenge was to apply the model for different data sources and data models. Above that, the model had to be adapted for urban and rural environments. With several lines of code we managed to process the whole workflow automatically. This made it possible to run fast calibration cycles.
The result of this project is a seamless, cross-border routing application for bicyclists who are not only interested in the shortest but also in the safest route.

As my department, the department of geoinformatics, Z_GIS internet, has been established as an independent department just recently, this year has been a time of consolidation. In this context I’m very happy that one of the eight, newly defined working groups has been dedicated to mobility and transportation research. In this institutional context research on bicycle safety will play a significant role. This directly brings me to a brief outlook …

At the moment we are waiting for the definite start of a project which will allow us to further improve the bicycle routing application “radlkarte.eu”. The national funding agency (Klima- und Energiefond) has already allocated funds, but one of the two institutional sponsors still needs to manage some internal ambiguities. Anyway, we are hopeful to kick-off the project in early spring.
Beside this we are currently writing on research proposals and – of course! – hope to be successful!

I’m planning to publish a first journal paper about the accident analysis in the first half of the year. Together with two brilliant colleagues I need to finish the spatio-temporal analysis and wrap up the methodological context. Depending on how much project work is to be done, I’d like to start with smaller papers about some aspects of our last projects (e.g. harmonization of different data models for routing purpose).
The indicator-based assessment model is planned to be reconfigured. At the moment the result of the assessment model is static. This means for example for the routing application that user inputs cannot be considered; the safety-index is preprocessed. In a next version the assessment model should allow for user inputs and do the processing during runtime. In this context the standardization of the index values and the balancing of the indicator weights will be the major challenges.

During my first (half) year as PhD student I tried to figure out how I can manage my daily work for UNIGIS, all the project work and my own research/publishing. In some respects I definitely need to improve my routines! But I hope that the wheels – not only of my bicycle – keep turning and significant progress can be made in 2014.

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