Blindspin is a crowd-sourced open science research project on bicycling safety, more specifically distracted cycling. The team consists mostly of current and former researchers in driver distraction. The methods used in driver distraction research are being extended to study bicycling. The measurements were made in Turku, Finland, in July-August 2014. Data analysis is ongoing.

The local newspaper Turun Sanomat published a Finnish-language piece on the project on Sep 28. The article is behind a paywall, but see our synopsis of it (Blindspin 9, Finnish only).

We used the occlusion method to study the role of vision in riding a bicycle safely. Volunteers drove a bicyle along a straight path, wearing a special set of goggles which can be electronically controlled to be either transparent or opaque. The volunteer switched between transparent and opaque modes while cycling.  For scientific background, see Blindspin 3. For the first rough results, see Blindspin 7 (Finnish) and  Blindspin 8 (English)

The project is unofficial and unfunded, with the (very minor) expenses being paid by the researchers personally. Bicycling distraction is not within the strategic scope of any research entity (though we feel it should be), and rather than spend years scraping for funds, we decided to just do this. We plan to publish these results, in some professional peer-reviewed forum (however, due to the open science approach, we will publish at least the key results under a Creative Commons license). If we are successful, we can get enough results to justify more in-depth research.

We finished the field tests on August 5, with 14 volunteers. The data will require considerable amounts of processing before we can say anything definitive. We have some hypotheses, but will not speculate on them until we see whether the data really do support them.

The team

The ad hoc group has four people with research or technical backgrounds, some with extensive background in driver distraction.

*Jakke Mäkelä (LinkedIn) worked in an automotive safety research project in 2013-2014, and is familiar with occlusion methods. He is the unofficial project leader.

*Niko Porjo (LinkedIn) is a technical wizard. He hacked the occlusion goggles and worked on data collection.

*John Senders (home page)  is one of the pioneers in the field of visual demand (and is featured in the video above). He proposed the idea of studying cycling visual demand in the first place. He will work on theoretical aspects in particular.

*Tuomo Kujala (LinkedIn)  has studied visual demand in automotive environments, and has done extensive visual occlusion studies. He will try to relate this project to earlier research and will work on data interpretation.



Occlusion tests in the 1960’s. Photo Michael Dwyer/AP. Source: Boston Globe.


Occlusion tests in the 2010’s. Photo: Niko Porjo 


 June 5, 2014. Project introduction: Blindspin 1: Does it make sense to ride a bike with your eyes shut?. General introduction to the project.

June 9, 2014: Blindspin 2: How to do science by dumpster-diving. We need to cut corners everywhere, as we have no real budget. This posting shows how to build a data logger for zero euros from scrap electronics.

June 11, 2014: Blindspin 3: Why would someone want to volunteer? The science behind the project, and why people might find it interesting to participate.

June 14, 2014: Blindspin 4: How much will test subjects need to sweat? Details on what volunteers would need to go through. Estimate: 90 minutes, about 5 kilometers, in the eastern part of Turku, Finland.

July 9, 2014: Blindspin 5: History being made? We present the first crude plot showing the visual demand of cycling. There are still unsolved technical issues, and thus the tests were done inadequately. However, we can see some intriguing effects.

June 17, 2014: Blindspin 6: Haemme vapaaehtoisia. Our appeal for volunteers in the Turku region (Finnish only).

 August 5, 2014: Blindspin 7: Kenttätestit tehty. Field tests have been finished with fourteen volunteers. We show some very rough unprocessed results (Finnish only).

September 20, 2014: Blindspin 8: A peek at the data. Initial results. Nothing particularly dramatic, but interesting nonetheless. “If we don’t have a number, we don’t really know anything, and we can’t learn anything more.”

September 28, 2014: Blindspin 9: Projekti mediassa. The local newspaper Turun Sanomat published a piece on the project. We summarize the article (Finnish only)

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