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Innovative ideas for using bicycles in the city

Investigators from the Universidad Autónoma of Barcelona have developed a computer simulation model that helps municipal politicians decide about what improvements can be made in the infrastructures to increase the number of bicycle users.

Developed in a first stage for the city of Skopje, Macedonia, this model can preview the results and predict the effect of a number of infrastructural changes make in the number of bicycle users. Thanks to the application of the model the Council of Skopje expects to increase from the current 2.5% to 5%, which is the typical rate in cities from northern Europe, where riding bicycles is a consolidated option.

Some of the improvements that are contemplated within the program are the improvement of the pavements of the roads, the building of new roads, the opening of new parking and bicycle rental areas, as well as the improvement of the capacity of these stations.

To measure the impact that each possible change can have, the model takes the characteristics of the people into account: the initial motivation to use a bike, the level of motivation loss with time, or the increases of motivation of people when they ride their bike.

As the budget of local councils are always limited, this model helps to establish what changes are to be done, for example the building of a number of new parking stations of new roads, or the improvement of a certain area. With these options as a starting point, the model shows a list of possible combinations as a result, with the percentage of users that would use their bicycle in each case, and that determines the best combination for a certain objective.

It is not common for politicians to use computer models for their decision making, but this system is having a very warm welcome in the municipalities that are testing its use. The investigators of the UAB have created similar models to simulate different situations, such as mountain trails, distribute the space in an urban park, determine the type of municipal equipment is best for the residents of the area, or even redistribute the industry in a big city to minimize the environmental impact. All of these implementations are under study in different cities all around the world.

This work is part of the FUPOL project, financed by the FP7 European Framework, that develops advanced tools of artificial intelligence to support politicians in the design and implementation of social political measures.


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