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Using Code To Count Bikes In Virginia

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Gosse's group came up with a way to county cyclists using existing traffic cameras.
Bill Dickinson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/skynoir/13919283170
Gosse's group came up with a way to county cyclists using existing traffic cameras.

Urban planners in Virginia are trying to make bicycling safer, but they're hampered by a lack of statistics about who's riding where. A Charlottesville man who may have found a low-cost answer to that problem.

Alec Gosse rides his bike to work at a Charlottesville company that analyzes data, and he recently completed a PhD in civil engineering. Those interests led him to try and solve a problem daunting city planners.

"There was no data for how many bikes were using various roads in the city," Gosse says.

Without that information, they didn't know where to make road improvements for cyclists. Existing equipment that counts bikes is expensive, and hiring people to do the job would also break the bank. So Gosse came up with a better idea.

VDOT and the city have cameras at many major intersections to better synchronize stop lights with traffic. Gosse and other graduate students created software that could review video from those cameras, identify and count bikes. It wasn't easy.

"They look different from the front and the back and the side, and they're just not very big," Gosse says.

But they found a way to do it, and Gosse suspects this software could be refined to make cycling safer by recording close calls and fixing problems with road design and signage to reduce the risk of accidents.

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