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Europe-wide traffic survey to recruit ‘citizen scientists’

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Europe-wide traffic survey to recruit 'citizen scientists'

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Telraam

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Traffic sensors will be placed in homes across Europe

Traffic sensors are being installed in homes in five cities in Europe, in an attempt to learn more about traffic flow.

English academics are involved in sending 1,500 sensors to be installed in homes in Madrid, Dublin, Cardiff, Ljubljana and Leuven.

The sensors will count the number and speed of all vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians that pass by them.

Professor Enda Hayes, who is helping to administer the research, said involving ordinary people would be the key to her success.

"We are going to target certain areas, but also ask people to volunteer to have sensors in their homes," he said.

"Our data will be sent to the cloud so that it can be seen by anyone, whether by private citizens, the local council or NGOs.

"The evidence can be used in various initiatives related to speed, noise, air pollution, safety and active travel. We hope it will put citizens at the center of debates on these issues."

The collected data will be updated every hour and will be available free of charge for anyone to access online.

Cities are being included in a project called Citizens Observing UrbaN Transport (WeCount).

It is part of Horizon 2020, a European Commission-funded research project on sustainable economic growth.

With air pollution being blamed for 500,000 premature deaths across the continent in 2018, experts participating in the survey hope their results can be used to make cities healthier places to live.

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Javier Soriano / Getty Images

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Spanish capital, Madrid, faces air pollution problems

Healthier streets await

Hayes, of the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol, says the technology used is simple, but will allow people to take control of the data where they live.

The sensors will be placed in homes with a clear view of the road from the outside.

The software inside them will analyze the speed and size of whatever is approved and determine whether it is a vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist.

"The sensor components are manufactured by the Raspberry Pi, standard hardware available on the shelf. They are powered by a micro USB port," he said.

"It will connect to the wi-fi in the person's home, just like any smartphone or computer.

"The data is published every hour, but the exact location of the sensor is not provided, just the path it is on."

Live traffic movement

The software running on the units was developed by Transport & Mobility Leuven (TML) and the sensors are already being used in Belgium.

Anyone can log on and see how many vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists have passed a certain point last hour.

WeCount follows projects like the Copenhagen Hacking study, which uses information from cyclists to monitor traffic movement in the Danish capital.

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Eric Jones / Geography

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Dublin will be one of the cities where traffic will be studied

WeCount, which is being led by engineering and emissions specialist Kris Vanherle, started in December 2019 and will run for two years.

Hayes says that while the overall motivation is reducing air pollution, there will be other outbreaks in individual cities.

"In Cardiff, our goal is to put some schools nearby to study issues around the school," he said. "We will also place sensors on the roads that the council has already identified as problematic from the point of view of transportation.

"In general, we want to go beyond data collection. We want to turn these citizen scientists into lawyers who will use the data to work with employers, schools and local transport authorities to help drive healthier cities. and healthier planning ".

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Traffic sensors will be deployed in Cardiff as part of WeCount

& # 39; We must do something & # 39;

Professor Hayes believes that a traffic study on this scale has never been done before and, as individual sensors are relatively inexpensive to produce, WeCount could initiate a mass movement of neighborhoods by being more informed about traffic in your area.

As an air quality specialist, he says cities must now act against congestion.

"If we do nothing, we will see a continuing decline in air quality in our urban environments across Europe and this will result in more deaths and more health problems."

"We need to address one of the biggest sources of pollution that is traffic."

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UWE

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Enda Hayes, air quality specialist, University of the West of England

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