We're getting closer to understanding exactly what happens to our bodies when our bikes crash.

Bicycling is increasingly seen as a legitimate form of urban transportation – 2010 bike commuting rates in the United States were up 50 percent from 2000. So it’s about time that two-wheelers got some serious safety equipment: a crash-test dummy custom-designed to measure cycling injuries.

The dummy, a project of engineering students at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, is the first of its kind, and it could reveal some very interesting data about what happens to cyclists’ bodies when they hit the pavement.

Crash-test dummies for cars don’t measure the same kind of impacts that bike riders face, according to an article about the project in the Ottawa Citizen:

When engineers crash a car, they use one type of dummy for a frontal crash, and a different type for an impact from the side. Neither type is considered quite right for a cyclist who hits something, or slams on the front brakes hard, and flies over the handlebars….

The dummy wears a helmet. But like a human cyclist, it keeps the important stuff inside its head.

This includes one sensor that deforms under the force of impact, to show the stress that a real cyclist would endure.

With bike share on its way to the two biggest cities in the United States, New York and Los Angeles, cycling safety will be an increasingly mainstream concern. For now, the biking dummy may just be a student project. But it could develop into a useful tool that would provide hard data on, among other things, the much-disputed value of helmets. Bike riders deserve to be taken seriously as road users, and a scientifically accurate dummy can help to make that case.

The Ottawa Sun has a video of a crash test.

Photo credit: Fotocrisis /Shutterstock

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a closed street in St. Louis

    The Curious Tale of the St. Louis Street Barriers

    Thanks to an '80s mania for traffic calming, the St. Louis grid is broken by hundreds of bollards and cul-de-sacs. Critics say it’s time to get rid of them.

  2. A young girl winces from the sting as she receives the polio vaccine in 1954.

    How Mandatory Vaccination Fueled the Anti-Vaxxer Movement

    To better understand the controversy over New York’s measles outbreak, you have to go back to the late 19th century.

  3. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  4. Design

    A New Plan to Correct a Historic Mistake in Pittsburgh

    A Bjarke Ingels Group-led plan from 2015 has given way to a more “practical” design for the Lower Hill District. Concerns over true affordable housing remain.

  5. A photo of the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire in Paris.

    Amid Notre-Dame’s Destruction, There’s Hope for Restoration

    Flames consumed the roof and spire of the 13th-century cathedral in Paris. The good news: Gothic architecture is built to handle this kind of disaster.