Coe College professor builds simulator to help reduce bicyclist, pedestrian accidents

Published: Jan. 29, 2019 at 5:20 AM CST
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Professor Ben Chihak with Coe College says he's seen too many bicycle-versus-pedestrian crashes.

He has built a simulator teaching people to look out for cyclists. It's like the old school game 'Frogger,' but the individual taking part in the simulator is the frog.

The goal is to cross the road without getting hit by two groups of bicyclists traveling at about 27 miles per hour.

A person puts on a virtual headset that lets them see a simulated world where bicycles are coming at them. One misstep and the person is hit over by a cyclist.

Chihak is using this to see how people move around in the world, and how safely they cross the roads. He will then take this research to engineers so they can look at ways to make things safer for everyone.

That includes adding more bike lanes or training programs at school.

Chihak says he sees a lot of these collisions, and it's only going to get worse.

"As the population continues to grow globally, we're seeing most of that concentration happen in cities in those closed environments,” he said. “So the way that we actually share roadway space as in intersections, be as pedestrians, intersections or drivers is going to be much more important."

Chihak is currently only using the simulator with Coe College students. Eventually, he wants to expand the study to people throughout Eastern Iowa.