The Dutch lead in cyclist safety too, it seems

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Feb 19 2013 at 10:10am #

This came from the Feburary issue of Popular Science, with the video links added from the PopSci website:

The title of the very brief article is “Cushion the Blow”

In the United States, only 1 percent of trips are made by bicycle. In the Netherlands, which has only 1/18 of the U.S.’s population, that number is close to 26 percent. With so many bikes on the road, Dutch company TNO is working on a car airbag that deploys outside the vehicle to reduce bicyclist injuries. Upon impact, the airbag, housed under the hood, inflates to cover parts of the windshield and cushion a biker. In tests last November, engineers drove a track-guided car into a dummy on a bike at 25 mph, the average speed of a crash. Accelerometers in the dummy’s head and neck and pressure sensors embedded in its limbs indicated brain damage and broken bones. Dummies in collisions with the airbag had fewer and less severe injuries up to 45 percent of the time.

Videos of the TNO-airbag for cyclists can be found here:


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Feb 19 2013 at 10:28am #

/engaging cynicism

“Officer, it’s okay that I’m texting while driving: MY car has airbags on the outside, for cyclist and pedestrian safety!”

I’m not so thrilled about implicitly telling people that we expect them to hit other road users.

I also wonder if an externally-directed form of risk compensation would not take effect here.


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Feb 19 2013 at 10:45am #

Remember that in the Netherlands few cyclists wear helmets. So I think it’s actually pretty cool that they’re adding safety mechanisms to the machines that actually cause the damage, and which can carry the weight with no trouble, instead of expecting each individual cyclist to carry them around with them. Almost as if they were putting the responsibility on the motorist, instead of the cyclist, for the accident. Imagine if we did the same, and restricted dangerous car traffic to lanes separated by jersey barriers from the rest of us cyclists and pedestrians.


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Feb 19 2013 at 11:00am #

Odd that the extremely safe (yet helmet spurning) dutch would embrace this.

Seems to me that it would be phenomenally expensive and at low speed might actually increase the risk in a collision.

Although one might consider that increasing the expense involved in operating an unsafe, environmentally-damaging resource hog probably should be considered a net plus.


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Feb 19 2013 at 11:06am #

Comparing separated infrastructure and external airbags is apples and oranges, IMO.

Separate lanes are designed to reduce occurrence of impacts, while external airbags are designed to mitigate damage when impacts occur.

Impact prevention is a fine thing. Putting the onus on the equipment to reduce harm, rather than the operator to exercise due care, seems a fine way to displace responsibility.

My concern is that, if there is a documented tendency for personal safety enhancements such as anti-lock brakes to increase hazardous driving practices, what impact (pun intended) on driving practices will occur when adding safety enhancements that don’t even directly benefit the driver?


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Feb 19 2013 at 11:49am #

@reddan I understand your point. I can see why drivers with anti-lock brakes would depend on them for braking in hazardous conditions, since they make it possible to drive faster with the same or even a smaller chance of crashing. But when an airbag deploys that means you have had an accident and have all the inconvenience that implies. So, since I suppose the number one priority of a driver is to get where they’re going as fast as possible, and having any accident, even a non-fatal one, would interfere with that, I’m guessing that it would affect driver behavior not so much if at all.


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Feb 19 2013 at 12:09pm #

…maybe they are “embracing” it because the airbag would also protect their smaller and lighter European car from being severely damaged by cyclists/peds…tongue-in-cheek…

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