Univ. of Iowa studies kids in bike simulator
The University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, is using a bicycle simulator to study how children ride in traffic and come up with injury prevention strategies. The study subjects pedal a stationary bike with large screens wrapped around them. The screens show a series of more than a dozen intersections through which the cyclists travel amidst virtual oncoming cars and trucks.
Dr. Jodie Plumert, a psychology professor and co-director of the Hank Virtual Environments Lab bicycle simulator, said results so far indicate that children, ages 10, 12 and 14, tend to proceed through the same gaps in motor vehicle traffic as bike riding adults but tend to hesitate before doing so, according to Radio Iowa.
"What happens is that they end up with less time to spare than the adults have," Plumert said. "One thing we've been able to pinpoint is that kids, even at these older ages, when you put them in a fairly challenging traffic situation, are not coordinating their movements with the traffic as well as the adults are."
The simulator, used by graduate students and faculty in computer science, informatics and psychology, is funded with grant money from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Iowa's Injury Prevention Research Center.
Radio Iowa noted that motor vehicles are involved in a third of all bicycle-related brain injuries and 90 percent of bicycling fatalities. Of the 51,000 bicyclists injured in motor vehicle accidents in 2009, about 8,000 or 17 percent of the injured cyclists were 14 or younger, according to Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
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