Children's on-road bike safety sees 'dramatic improvement' after indoor immersive VR training

Children’s on-road bike safety sees ‘dramatic improvement’ after indoor immersive VR training

Kids are safer on the roads after virtual bike training

Credit: Brunel University London

Drifting or loss of concentration is a major cause of bicycle accidents, and because they are not as good at seeing hazards as adults, children are more often seriously injured.

Failing to look correctly at junctions and “human error” are the leading cause of road cycling accidents according to the Department for Transport.

Research backed by The Road Safety Trust shows that after video training, children’s safety and performance on the road bike improves across the board. They better communicate their next moves, better understand intersection priorities, and make more and better sightings.

The difference was stark, said Dr Dan Bishop, a sports and exercise psychologist from Brunel University London, who led the study. “It was so dramatic that I would say as a parent I would feel more confident in my young children’s ability to ride safely on the roads if they had taken this training.”

Video training has already been shown to improve children’s awareness of what’s going on around them and make them better at spotting hazards. But this study, published in Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Transportation Researchis the first to test whether it actually improves children’s cycling performance on the road.

Kids are safer on the roads after virtual bike training

Credit: Brunel University London

The researchers followed 33 children aged 10 to 12 who had taken Bikeability Level 2 training. They were divided into two groups and one group tried a new virtual training course. Children pedaled a stationary bike in a lab while watching immersive real-world footage shot from a cyclist’s perspective. They walked five virtual routes on main and secondary roads, all passing a school.

The researchers tracked the children’s head and eye movements, and when they pressed the brake. The researchers also asked questions to check the children’s observation skills and understanding, such as when they can turn around and who has priority. Both groups then took video tests and were evaluated while driving on real roads, by qualified instructors.

“The effects we’ve seen are profound,” Dr. Bishop said. “And although the training only focused on two of the four essential functions of the National Standard for Cycling Training – observation and communication – we saw pronounced effects on the other two essential functions: positioning and awareness of road user priorities. This suggests that some learning of related behaviors has also occurred.”

The team now plans to expand the scope of training and testing to develop a plan for how to use immersive video training to improve on-road velocity training. They support national policy changes regarding child cycling training and government support to make cycling a more accessible mode of active travel for all children in the country.

More information:
Daniel T. Bishop et al, Improving Children’s Road Cycling with Immersive Video Training: A Pilot Study, Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Transportation Research (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.trip.2022.100699

Provided by Brunel University

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