Newsletter #2 incoming

Santa will come early this year and will bring you the latest PHOEBE newsletter. The second edition of our bi-annual update will feature several upcoming events, our latest news and interviews in written and visual form. Don’t miss the opportunity and sign up now and receive the newsletter in mid-December!

Valencia: a city committed to active- & shared mobility (Part 2)

We spoke with Marc Figuls, managing partner at Factual Consulting and main responsible for the Valencia pilot, about the current mobility situation in the Spanish city, as well as upcoming plans for the PHOEBE pilot in the first part of the series last week. The following two questions are focusing on the topics of micromobility in Valencia and the first project results that impact our Spanish pilot. In case you have missed our other written interviews, we suggest you to check the first part of this interview, as well as the conversations about West Midlands and Athens.

What role does micromobility play in Valencia? Which solutions are available and do citizens and tourists use them frequently?

Micromobility offers convenient and sustainable transportation options for both residents and tourists. One prominent micromobility solution in the city is Valenbisi, a bike-sharing system that was launched in 2010. Valenbisi is a joint initiative between the City Council of Valencia and the company JCDecaux. The system allows users to rent bicycles for short trips around the city, promoting cycling as a popular mode of transport. The rental scheme expanded over the years into an extensive network that enhances the convenience to rent bikes throughout the city.

In addition to bike sharing, there are also moped sharing services available in Valencia, such as Yego, Acciona, Cooltra. These services provide electric mopeds that can be rented for short-distance travel. However, it’s important to note that while citizens are allowed to drive their privately owned e-scooters, e-scooter sharing is not currently permitted in the city. The availability of these micromobility solutions reflects the city’s commitment to promoting sustainable and efficient transportation alternatives.

The presence of Valenbisi and moped sharing services demonstrates that both residents and tourists have access to a range of micromobility options in Valencia.  Some residents rely on micromobility services as part of their daily commute or for running errands, while tourists often utilise these options for sightseeing and exploring the city. Overall, micromobility solutions play a significant role in Valencia, providing residents and tourists with convenient and sustainable transportation options.

What are the next steps for the Valencia pilot after the first nine months of the project?

After the initial nine months of the PHOEBE pilot in Valencia, there are several important steps to be taken in order to enhance the project’s effectiveness and ensure its success. These next steps include:

  • Data Analysis and Evaluation:

Thoroughly analysing and evaluating the data collected from the LanePatrol technology is crucial. This analysis will focus on identifying patterns, trends, and areas that require improvement in terms of safety and quality of the cycle lane networks. By gaining insights into the behaviour of local residents, tourists, and different user groups, specific challenges can be addressed.

  • Comparison with Historical Accident Data:

It is essential to compare the collected data with historical accident data to assess the impact of the pilot project on safety improvements. By comparing accident rates and severity before and after the pilot’s implementation, the effectiveness of interventions can be determined. Ultimately measuring progress towards the Vision Zero goal of reducing fatalities and serious injuries.

  • Stakeholder Engagement:

Engaging with stakeholders, including local residents, tourists, cycling advocacy groups, and mobility planners, is crucial for the pilot project’s success. Gathering feedback, insights, and experiences from these stakeholders through surveys, focus groups, or public consultations is important. This engagement provides an opportunity to address concerns, collect additional data, and foster a sense of ownership and collaboration.

  • Scaling and Expansion:

Based on positive outcomes and lessons learned from the pilot, there may be opportunities to scale and expand the implementation of the LanePatrol technology and CycleRAP methodology. This involves integrating the pilot findings into the city’s broader cycling infrastructure plans.

Valencia’s commitment to investing in active mobility infrastructure stems from its aspiration to become a smart and sustainable city.

Valencia: a city committed to active- & shared mobility (Part 1)

We spoke with Marc Figuls, managing partner at Factual Consulting and main responsible for the Valencia pilot, about the current mobility situation in the Spanish city, as well as upcoming plans for the PHOEBE pilot. In case you have missed our other written interviews, we suggest you to check the conversations about West Midlands and Athens. Valencia has made significant investments in its active mobility infrastructure as part of its Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP), which was launched a decade ago. Additional green spaces attracted active mobility users, especially thanks to further investment into the transformation of the old Turia riverbed into a park that spans across the city. Valencia even holds the distinction of being the first Spanish city to construct a bicycle lane back in 1985. PHOEBE aims to enhance the safety of these vulnerable road users through the development of transport modelling tools.

Marc, what are the trends in modal shift in Valencia, specifically related to cycling?

Valencia’s SUMP plays a crucial role in promoting modal shift. Thus, investments have been made to improve cycling infrastructure, including the expansion of bicycle lanes and the development of a comprehensive cycling network. A significant project that has contributed to this effort is the cycling ring that surrounds the old town, which started in March 2017. This initiative, along with an increase in bike parking facilities and the emergence of electric scooters, have led to a substantial growth in sustainable mobility over the past eight years.

The city’s cycling network has expanded from 131 kilometres in 2015 to the current 188 kilometres, an increase of 43%. The usage of these facilities has doubled during this period. The number of bike parking spots has also nearly doubled from 10,430 to 19,680. Thanks to the installation of traffic counters many years ago, we have a clear indication that a growing number of people are cycling. Just in the last five years, we saw an increase in 300% of cyclists along the cycling ring. Since its opening in 2018, over seven million trips were counted.  

Why is cycling, along with active mobility infrastructure, such an integral part of Valencia’s DNA? The city of Valencia is committed to sustainable mobility, and these trends in modal shift reflect the city’s efforts to prioritise active transportation options. By promoting cycling and walking, Valencia aims to create a healthier, more environmentally friendly, and liveable city. The city benefits from a mild Mediterranean climate, which creates favourable conditions for outdoor activities throughout the year. The region’s relatively flat terrain and the short distances makes cycling easily accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels.  

It’s great to see a significant enthusiasm for active mobility, but over 400 crashes involving cyclists are recorded every year in Valencia. What is PHOEBE’s strategy to reduce these numbers?

The research conducted by PHOEBE focuses on utilising predictive approaches to enhance the safety of cycle lane networks. By analysing and evaluating the data collected through FACTUAL’s LanePatrol technology together with the integration of historical crash data, PHOEBE aims to identify patterns, trends, and potential areas of improvement in the safety and quality of cycling infrastructure.

By understanding the behaviour of local residents, tourists, and different types of users, PHOEBE can pinpoint specific challenges and areas that require attention. This data-driven approach enables the project to target interventions and safety measures effectively. The comparison of historical accident data with the data collected by PHOEBE will help assess the impact of the pilot project on reducing crashes and improving safety for cyclists.Moreover, the use of the well-established CycleRAP methodology based on the insights gained from PHOEBE’s data analysis will ensure a more effective and context-specific approach to addressing safety issues.

Thanks to the feedback and engagement of stakeholders, PHOEBE can gather valuable insights, address concerns, and foster a collaborative effort to enhance cycling safety.Ultimately, the knowledge gained through PHOEBE’s research and the integration of its findings into the city’s broader cycling infrastructure plans can inform targeted measures, such as better signage, improved road design, and increased awareness campaigns.

Learn more about the plans for micromobility and the first project results of PHOEBE in Valencia in our next part of the interview, which will be published next week. 

We need your opinion!

Our PHOEBE experts have gathered research on the current state-of-play related to transport modelling research and the PHOEBE framework in our deliverable “SoA and end user needs review”. The latter is available in a preliminary version and contains several aspects which are highlighted in this new item and in bullet points below.

Even though stakeholders were consulted within the framework of the previously mentioned deliverable, the PHOEBE consortium would like to gain some feedback from you. Thus, we invite you to read the deliverable and provide us feedback by answering the survey below.

Summary of the deliverable:

  • Highlights gaps in science and policy related to transport modelling
  • Sheds light on the crucial connections between traffic simulation, road safety assessment, and the role of human behaviour models.
  • Confirms that the iRAP Star Ratings are a suitable road safety assessment methodology to meet the needs of the project.
  • Showcases that understanding modal shift and induced demand is critical in understanding the changes in the network flow and speed and their impacts on safety in the transport system.
  • Summarises more than 50 stakeholder consultations
  • Lists several key messages and conclusions, such as:
    • Mode choice and modal shift models are the first steps to be taken to simulate traffic and safety impacts.
    • Fusion of road assessment and traffic simulation: the strong inter-relationship between traffic simulation and road safety assessment is at the core of the PHOEBE methodology.

Our content

Deliverable D1.1 “SoA and end user needs review”

New item that summarises the deliverable

Survey about D1.1

Interview with ‘The Floow’ about mobility in West Midlands

In our third interview after NTUA and iRAP, we spoke with Sam Chapman, Senior Vice President Innovation and  co-founder of ‘The Floow’, about the importance of PHOEBE for West Midlands, existing road safety challenges in the English region, as well as the potential result and learnings that the pilot can provide. ‘The Floow’ cooperates with the local transport agency of Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) in their effort to enhance the safety of vulnerable road users in various traffic scenarios across the densely populated region. A video interview, which will summarise the project plans, will be released in the following weeks.

Good afternoon Sam, how would you describe the mobility situation of the West Midlands region?

Transport services are co-ordinated by TfWM, which has the jurisdiction over seven metropolitan boroughs, the largest of which is the city of Birmingham. The local rail system comprises over one hundred stations, carrying services delivered by six different operators. A single light rail line conducts a tram service between the cities of Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Fifteen operators provide bus services across the region. 

 During the morning peak, more than 70% of all trips to urban centres are made by car, which decreases to 36% when Birmingham is considered in isolation. TfWM aims to reduce the high levels of car dependency and make West Midlands a place ‘where people can thrive without having to drive or own a car’. There is an increased focus on promoting active travel, which make up less than 2% of the traffic entering metropolitan centres during the morning peak. During the pandemic, TfWM were awarded £16.85m as part of the UK government’s emergency active travel fund to build dedicated infrastructure for walking and cycling. 

What are the unique aspects for a region in the PHOEBE project?

Unlike other the use-case locations, West Midlands is a combined authority comprising of multiple towns and cities. Each local authority will have its own perspective and priorities when it comes to transport, arising from the different constituent levels of rural and urban areas within each. Many of the regions have high degrees of urban deprivation and high population growth creating new challenges for safe citizen mobility.    

What are the road safety challenges of the West Midlands?

The West Midlands target is a 40% reduction of serious injuries and fatalities (KSI) by 2028, which requires a reduction from an average of 1048 of this type of accidents in 2017 to 629 in the next five years. However, the region faces several challenges to achieve safer roads, such as a widespread proliferation of e-mobility solutions, more vehicles utilising connected and autonomous technologies, and increasing levels of active travel. In 2017, 64% of KSI road users in the West Midlands were pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcyclists. There is a danger that the region’s goal to reduce car dependency and increase the proportion of active travel trips will lead to an increase in the overall number of persons KSI in an environment where the underlying level of risk remains the same.  

How can West Midlands support the other pilot cities and vice versa?

Our region is a large area with a large variety of differing road risk scenarios. This coupled with large numbers of co-located programs allows lessons to be learned applicable to other regions drawing from the wide variety of the transport environment and its solutions. 

Interview with iRAP: how to protect vulnerable road users?

We spoke recently with James Bradford, Global Technical Director, who highlighted the work of the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) as the technical manager, as well as the opportunities that PHOEBE can bring to iRAP. The conversation is part of an ongoing PHOEBE interview series with the project partners and pilot leaders. The first interview was held with NTUA prior to our consortium meeting in Athens.

Welcome James, what are the opportunities of PHOEBE for iRAP?

The PHOEBE project is working to better address the needs of cities in anticipating the safety impact of such changes. PHOEBE equips them with the information needed to address safety issues and help cities meet their road safety and sustainability targets. The project provides the opportunity for the proven iRAP road safety assessment tools to be harnessed together with traffic simulation. It enables the relationship between road user risk and human behaviour, mode shift, and demand of new mobility to be modelled to help cities to plan urban road safety measures.

What unique contributions does iRAP being to the project?

James Bradford, Global technical director of iRAP

The Phoebe project enables iRAP to provide both it’s protocols, along with the team knowledge and expertise in road infrastructure safety. The main iRAP protocols that will be used as part of the Phoebe project are:

  • Star Ratings are a global benchmark, provide an objective measure of the level of safety ‘built-in’ to the road for vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
  • Fatal and Serious Injury (FSI) Estimates provides estimates of FSIs along each segment of an existing road or design and supports the prioritisation of investment.
  • Safer Roads Investment Plans draw on data underpinning Star Ratings and FSI Estimates to determine the most cost-effective road safety upgrades.
  • Star Rating for Designs (SR4D) a package of tools, knowledge products, support and other initiatives so that roads are built safe, right from the start.
  • CycleRAP an evidence-based risk assessment model specifically for bicycling and light mobility.

What are currently the main urban road safety challenges and how can PHOEBE help to overcome them?

The main challenges with urban road safety can be grouped into a three broad groups; support for active travel, evolving needs from the road, and a misalignment between a roads function and it’s design.

In terms of support of modes of active travel like walking and cycling safe and adequate infrastructure can be lacking, thereby increasing the risk to these users. The Phoebe project will enable the analysis of provision of infrastructure to support active travel and its related risk level for active mobility users.

The needs of urban road networks are evolving with increased demand and new forms of non-motorised mobility alongside greater potential for public transit like buses and metro systems. The Phoebe project will enable a greater ability to model the demands and behaviour of road users – including non-motorised transport.

There are many examples of the misalignment of a roads function and its design, especially as traffic demands rose. This leads to situations where vulnerable road users like disabled persons, cyclists or pedestrians, are interacting with motorised vehicle travelling speeds beyond safe levels. The Phoebe project will enable a more refined modelling of vulnerable road user behaviour and how it interfaces with motorised vehicles, highlighting high levels of risk.

From the perspective of your role, please describe the first months of the project. What were the challenges and highlights?

The first six months of the project have been crucial in terms of refining the project plan, establishing the work packages, and creating the foundations of the project. Key highlights from the first six months include; carrying out and delivering the literature review, formalising the scope for each of the three pilots, linking with the sister Horizon Europe projects, and providing knowledge sharing webinars.

Listen to our pilot leaders

Interviews with the project- and pilot leaders were conducted during the latest consortium meeting in Athens, which took place last month. Each of the interviews are highlighting the state of play of the pilots in Athens, Valencia and West Midlands, as well as a general interview with the project leader iRAP. Furthermore, these videos below give an indication of the potential spillover effects of PHOEBE within the three mentioned pilot cities.

Interview with Shona Holroyd (Project Coordinator – iRAP)

Interview with Marc Figuls (Pilot leader for Valencia – Factual Consulting)

Interview with Sam Chapman (Pilot leader for West Midlands- The Floow)

PHOEBE assesses state-of-the-art of transport modelling tools

The deliverable that will be available for download soon reviews the main aspects of the PHOEBE framework, which includes the methodology, technical developments related to transport modelling. In a second step, the assessment of the tools and support materials that are required to use the PHOEBE tools will follow.

The PHOEBE experts have been busy at work exploring the methodological and technical approach that the project will follow and is the basis for developing the PHOEBE framework. They gained an overview through desk research and review of the body of knowledge related to road safety and transport modelling, as well as online stakeholder surveys and focus groups to understand the current uses and practices of road safety assessment and microscopic simulation of traffic on urban road networks, and the extent to which they inform decision making in urban road planning and management.

The review of the state-of-the-art covered the main components of PHOEBE, including, among others, road safety assessment, traffic microsimulation, human behavioural models, modal shift and induced demand in over 300 research papers. The online survey and focus groups captured the gaps and needs of transport managers, practitioners and authorities in the three pilot cities of Athens, Valencia and West Midlands and beyond.

The deliverable 1.1 – SoA and end user needs review is available as a preliminary version here.

Summary of review findings

The findings of this state-of-the-art review brought to light the gaps in science and policy that are currently present. Additionally, the review shed light on the crucial connections between traffic simulation, road safety assessment, and the role of human behaviour models in enhancing the credibility of both; this ‘triangle’ is an important part of the basis of PHOEBE methodology. The PHOEBE framework includes several intersecting components that need to be enhanced, upgraded and interlinked to achieve the scientific objectives of the methodological framework and result in a usable and efficient policy support tool.

The review confirmed that the iRAP Star Ratings are a suitable road safety assessment methodology to meet the needs of the project. In order to enhance the understanding about the process and structure of these Star Ratings among the consortium members, an internal workshop for PHOEBE partners took place recently, which gives an excellent overview of this matter.  This method incorporates individual models for VRUs and is applicable across all regions and road types (including urban road networks). However, Star Ratings provide static safety ratings. Speed and flow variables from traffic simulation models will be incorporated to allow for dynamic safety prediction and a better representation of human behaviour.

Mode choice

Another behavioural aspect that is being assessed by PHOEBE is the mode choice or modal shift of users, which also has an impact on the network-level safety of a city. Understanding modal shift and induced demand is critical in understanding the changes in the network flow and speed and their impacts on safety in the transport system. Modelling the mode choice (MC) phenomenon and forecasting the Modal Share and Modal Shift (MS) is integral to modelling travel demand. It was also concluded that there is a lot of experience in developing such models for urban areas, but not for sustainable modes of transport (other than public transport), micromobility and automated mobility. The inclusion of some new modes, particularly micromobility, will be essential for the PHOEBE Framework’s capacity to forecast the uptake of new modes of transport.

Stakeholder consultations

The survey questionnaire and focus groups wanted to assess different aspects of the PHOEBE framework from the end-user perspective, resulting in a Needs Statement. The survey was disseminated online with 50 participants who spent around 20-30 minutes individually to answer various questions related to behavioural models, data collection methods, modal shift data, socioeconomic models, road safety assessment and microsimulation. The focus groups had in total 19 participants from 15 different cities in various sessions that followed a dedicated script and process to grasp the perceptions and experiences of the daily work, needs and capabilities while working with road safety assessment and simulation.

The Needs Statement highlights, amongst other things, that several challenges exist, including differing organisational structures related to knowledge and practice in the cities and some deficiencies in the current tools, such as the limited incorporation of modal shift options (especially with new emerging mobility solutions). Furthermore, VRUs and new mobilities need to be integrated not only into tools but also within the organisational knowledge and practice. The new emerging data sources are costly to collect and process, and the lack of human resources with relevant training and knowledge may be a barrier to exploiting these new data. The Needs Statement covers three elements of strategic goals, decision support and daily practice, as well as methodological needs.

Key Messages & Conclusions

Based on stakeholders’ needs and literature review, a conceptual design of the PHOEBE methodological framework will be drafted on the basis of the following design principles (among others):

  • Mode choice and modal shift models are the first steps to be taken to simulate traffic and safety impacts.
  • Fusion of road assessment and traffic simulation: the strong inter-relationship between traffic simulation and road safety assessment is at the core of the PHOEBE methodology.
  • Incorporation of human behaviour models to enhance the credibility of traffic simulation and enrich the predictions of road safety outcomes.

The results presented in this deliverable are just the beginning of work to be undertaken by the PHOEBE partners. They will continue exploring how the PHOEBE framework can move beyond the state-of-the-art and integrate traffic microsimulation and road safety assessment in an innovative and useful way. And you can follow the work and next steps here and on our social media channels (Twitter & LinkedIn).

Athens Consortium meeting: Modern transport challenges next to ancient ruins

Terraces, restaurants, motorcycles, buses and cars are sharing the urban street space in the buzzling Greek capital and tourism mecca for art and architecture of the antiquity. Cycling or using an e-scooter seem difficult on the narrow streets in the historic city centre or on the busy avenues. PHOEBE visited Athens for its 3rd consortium meeting to observe the pilot plans and first infrastructure implementations to protect vulnerable road users (VRUs) in the urban area.

The meeting, which took place on 21-23 June and was hosted by the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), focused on the scope of the pilot tests in Athens, Valencia and the West Midlands. Besides passionate discussions about the upcoming plans until the next consortium meeting in Munich, Germany, cultural visits and city tours were part of the program to understand the mobility challenges of the Greek capital.

Solving challenges after initial research phase

Besides the exchange on the plans for each pilot location and its use case scenarios, based on the gathered information about the pilots, which took place since the start of the project in November 2022, a focus was set to define the pilot use cases and scenarios to cover a wide range of different tests in the framework of the modelling exercises in Athens, Valencia and the West Midlands.

Concerning the latter, Transport for the West Midlands (TfWM) identified 10 potential locations that could be used as use cases for the modelling exercises, of which around 50% are potentially suitable to be used with the solutions provided by iRAP and Aimsun. The scenarios include examples of the key route network in the region, major retail centres, walking and cycling routes, as well as hotspots for traffic incidents. Data to support testing and wider data gathering exercises will be provided by Transport for West Midlands, Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Police.

Valencia will assess the bicycle infrastructure investment opportunities by analysing 10 bike- and car intersections to boost non-motorised mobility, particularly walking and cycling, with the potential to enhance the existing network around the metropolitan area, connecting neighbourhoods and municipalities with cycling and walking paths. The use case is looking for comprehensive data on cycling Infrastructure, identification of high-risk areas, improved cycling safety measures, evaluation of speed limit impact and enhanced understanding of user behaviour. Several simulations and real measurements will be conducted on a sample of at least five ‘event-critical’ intersections and 10 bike lane segments across different road and area types.

Learning about local solutions

NTUA leads the Athens use case, which will assess the effectiveness of the project’s protective measures for vulnerable road users in urban areas. Furthermore, the university will contribute to various aspects of the research activities, including the development of innovative methodologies to address integrated risk assessment for the protection of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. Athens intends to promote safe and sustainable mobility by targeting VRU safety with three major interventions focused on public transport, implementing a city-wide 30km/h speed limit. Furthermore, the establishment of an extensive network of bicycle routes within the existing road network (mixed traffic, bike/bus lanes and bike lanes on road shoulders) is also outlined in a long-term mobility plan.

In order to gain an overview of the mobility situation, the consortium visited the Athens Great Walk, a major urban regeneration project, demonstrating the pedestrianised ‘Vasilisis Olgas Avenue’ linking the Panathinaikon Stadium to the Acropolis walk, Syntagma Square, and Panepistimiou Street (the most central Athens avenue) in which works are in progress to replace two out of six traffic lanes with more space for pedestrian and city activities.

Collaboration key to predictive transport safety framework

Urban transport is constantly evolving and experiencing increasingly regular disruptions which influence when and how people move around. Changes in the transport system—both planned and unplanned—have implications on safety outcomes long-term. This is particularly the case as more people transition to active and sustainable modes of transport. Thus, PHOEBE is supporting this transition by drawing on the inter-disciplinary power of traffic simulation and road safety assessment. The PHOEBE project is one of three ‘sister’ projects funded under the same call, which are using simulation tools and innovative data sources and applications which draw on artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance the road safety of vulnerable road users.

The project’s need for partnerships goes beyond the project partners and sister projects. Similar attempts at improving predictive tools are being made in Europe and abroad. For example, the ITF’s Transport Outlook project pioneered an approach in Ireland which predicts road safety outcomes by analysing exposure of vulnerable road users to traffic volume and speed.

In a conversation with ITF, Luis Martinez presented the Transport Outlook developments. Based on ITF modelling tools, ITF simulated demand scenarios in passenger mobility and freight volumes to provide near-term and long-term prospects for transport demand. The connection with PHOEBE refers to the safety indicators that can be extracted from simulations. More information on the project can be found here.

At the European level, iRAP met Marcel Meeuwissen. Mr Meeuwissen shared his experience working on a TNO project to support the government with a simulation tool to predict safety, particularly for the extrapolation from micro-simulation to the macro-level. The status of both projects was discussed, as well as possible collaboration on data and use case scenarios. Besides the apparent similarities of both projects’ goals, TNO is also the partner of V4SAFETY, one of PHOEBE’s sister projects.

Continued collaboration with the sister projects and related initiatives will be essential in exploiting the learnings, expertise and developments in this area to date, and will ensure the best possible outcomes for the PHOEBE project. These collaborations are also important in optimizing the PHOEBE framework for use by the pilot cities within the project and for the next steps to build the PHOEBE developments into solid and successful experiences for organisations worldwide.