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'Stress map' informs Washington DC cyclists of the scariest roads

Research carried out via StreetView and in person

Cyclists in Montgomery County in the United States are now able to consult a ‘stress map’ to gauge whether or not a given road will be pleasant to cycle on. The colour-coded map of the Washington, DC suburb recently won the transportation planning award from the American Planning Association.

Wired reports that Montgomery County staff spent a year surveying 3,500 miles of road via Google StreetView.

Data was collected on bike lanes, traffic speed and volume, the number of lanes on each road, how frequently cars pull in and out of parking spots, and how easy it is to cross at junctions. When something wasn’t clear online, they went out and had a look.

To give some idea of the kind of thing staff went out to scrutinise, transportation planner David Anspacher, said: “If you’re looking at a path on the side of the road, there’s a big difference between whether the path is right next to the kerb of a high-speed road, or if it might have some tree buffer. In some instances, we needed to measure the distance between the path and the road edge.”

To create the map, the data was then run through the Level of Traffic Stress formula and different levels of stress were assigned different colours on a range from blue for the least stressful roads to red for the scariest.

As well as helping local cyclists plan their routes, the map’s creators hope it will also help the county plan future cycle infrastructure.

In 2014, we reported on a group of Edinburgh researchers who were looking to collect data on people's stress levels while cycling to try and identify possible stress factors.

The Brains on Bikes project involved 15 cyclists living or working in the suburb of Inverleith, ranging from people who hardly ever get on a bike to experienced riders.

They were asked to cycle a short 15-minute route which ranged in 'difficulty' from paths in the park to a busy roundabout while an EEG headset measured their stress levels via electrical activity in the brain. Google Glass was used to record what they saw and said while riding and a GPS tracker matched the readings to their location.

The researchers hoped that the research would help identify ways to increase confidence among nervous riders, as well as in people who are too afraid to get on a bike.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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