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

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