Bicycles, scooters and electric bicycles have taken over part of the urban space as an alternative for mobility. Electric mobility is booming due to its many advantages such as less pollution, less effort or the ease and speed they offer to move around the city and park. In general terms, and also thanks to the need to look for alternative transport due to Covid 19, the demand for this type of product increased by 144% on average this year (comparing the first and second four months of 2020). The main rise was in interest in bicycles, both electric (demand increased by 231%) and urban (with a rise of 179%).
However, due to the increase in demand, buyers have also suffered a financial impact as the average price of these products became more expensive. For example, the average price of electric bikes it has increased by 20% from January to August of this year, going from € 1,886.32 to € 2,264.28.
The other star vehicle after the quarantine has been the scooter, with an interest increase of 130% in the months of April to July for the traditional version, and 38% in its electric version. The prices of scooters have not experienced such a marked increase, in fact, traditional scooters are now 19% cheaper than in January, while the average price of electric ones has risen by 18%.
As sales and companies dedicated to the hourly rental of this type of vehicle skyrocket, a need has also been generated, to locate parking areas for this type of vehicles in cities, so that they are in accessible places for their users but without harming the traffic of pedestrians and other types of vehicles with which they share asphalt.
The NEO research group, from the ITIS Software Institute of the University of Malaga (UMA), has developed an artificial intelligence system to configure a map that helps municipalities and mobility managers in cities to identify the best locations for the new points of their network of bicycle deposit and collection stations.
As reflected in the study ‘Using metaheuristics for the location of bicycle stations‘published in the scientific journal Expert Systems with Applications, the new system applies bio-inspired algorithms, which take as a model the theory of natural evolution of adaptation to the environment.
Likewise, the map is focused on the needs of citizens when using the bicycle, and gives rise to a more realistic model than that of previous studies to propose alternatives that make the user walk as little as possible until he reaches the parking lot. The ultimate goal is to promote the use of this means of transport and healthy life in the city.
Artificial intelligence will complement the information that managers have for the location of the car parks. «It not only has actual data such as population, the geography or the use of this vehicle, but also with others that estimate intelligent algorithms that propose better solutions than the existing ones in terms of where to locate or move bicycle stations to maximize their use, ”they have indicated to the Discover Foundation. researchers of the NEO group of ONEEnrique Alba, Francisco Chicano and Christian Cintrano.
The use of five types of bio-inspired algorithms, which take as a model the theory of natural evolution of adaptation to the environment, serves to define the points of the city that are most conducive to locating the stations. taking into account factors that affect the neighborhood such as the number of inhabitants or the distances to other bicycle parking spaces.
In a computer program, the research team has entered the parameters according to which each algorithm works automatically to provide a methodology that refines them, following three main axes: what the city is like, where citizens live and how many people use bicycles .
They are real data that are obtained from open statistical sources of a real city, in this case Malaga, and the results provided by the computer program are repeatedly improved between them until the optimal solution is found, which is then reflected on a guide map available to the managers of this Andalusian capital.
This team has first designed a computer program to create the map of existing car parks, and, subsequently, has been introducing variables in it to define a real model that can be used to decide the best location of the new ones as proposed by these algorithms.
The NEO research group has highlighted the importance of using smart tools to aid decision-making. «Especially when we talk about manage public furniture, intelligent optimization algorithms can discover very good solutions that can be missed by human experts ”, highlighted Alba.
This can help save costs, by making better use of what is available before buying. new urban elements. The research starts from the hypothesis that an optimal location in the city of the stations of the shared bicycle network would definitely help to achieve greater use of this vehicle, by reducing the time and effort of users.
On the other hand, the research team emphasizes the impact of this work for a city like Malaga, at a time when city councils in medium and large cities are looking for new urban solutions for smart mobility.
In Malaga, although there are certain areas of the city like the center very densely populatedThere are neighborhoods on its periphery that are growing. “We have to decide if we want to create a real network of truly usable bike stations that allows us to move seamlessly throughout the city,” the NEO researchers have indicated.
In this sense, they have calculated new maps with specific locations, indicating its objective advantages, and determined the best type of algorithm they should use in the future. Thus, avenues of investigation are opened to advance in the interaction of the human expert who would have to execute the solutions with the system itself.
The underlying idea is that modern cities must make decisions based on data and in scientific studies as much as possible. The improvements could also be considered in terms of the urban furniture necessary for the provision of other public services, such as the charging of electric cars.
This research was carried out with the University of Malaga’s own funds, and with financing obtained in different national projects of excellence granted by the Ministry of Science and Innovation.
Safety on bikes and scooters
So that safety is one of the fundamental premises in these trips.
1-Use adequate protection. Keep in mind that electric bicycles can exceed 25 km / h (at this speed the power supply is cut but they can circulate faster without assistance). For this reason, it is recommended to wear suitable clothing that protects against falls and, above all, a helmet at all times. Norauto recalls that the use of a helmet is mandatory for children under 16 years of age both on urban roads and outside the city. The rest of adults must carry it obligatorily also outside urban roads. Another good option is to circulate with a reflective vest to be more visible, wear elbow and knee pads, and even gloves.
2-Circular with an adequate speed, taking into account the presence of other users and the conditions and speed limits of the road. It should also be governed by local indications. In any case, a speed must be maintained that allows to act before possible unforeseen events and stop the vehicle in time.
3-It is recommended to circulate on bicycle lanes. In this sense, it is necessary to follow the specific indications of each municipality on its use. Therefore, first of all, you should consult the local regulations in this regard. There may be differences between bicycles and electric scooters. Bicycles cannot circulate on sidewalks or pedestrian spaces, while, for example, scooters will depend on what the municipalities authorize.
4-Carry out proper maintenance. For optimum durability, it is advisable to put oil or grease on the parts that move such as cables, derailleurs, bearings … They must also be cleaned with suitable products. The condition of the wheels, brakes, battery, suspension, steering, transmission must be checked frequently, depending on the type of vehicle.
5-If they have never been used before, it is recommended to practice in a closed place and away from traffic and pedestrians to acquire greater dexterity. In the case of small children, they must always be under the supervision of an adult, be duly protected and taking into account the local regulations on their use.
6-Personal mobility vehicles must be duly approved and have the CE marking to guarantee their greater safety.
7-They do not need a circulation and driving license and neither mandatory insurance. However, the owner can take out insurance if he wishes or as specified by the local authority.
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