July 17, 2020

Calling all cyclists – we want to make your ride safer

Have wearable technology? Become a citizen scientist
Cyclist riding while wearing a smart watch
Become a citizen scientist Candace Ward

A University of Calgary professor is seeking help from Calgary cyclists. All you need is a bike and wearable technology and you can help make city streets safer. This is the first call to those who want to be part of a wearable technology citizen science program.

Researchers from the Wearable Technology Research and Collaboration (We-TRAC) Training Program at UCalgary want to understand heart rate and stress levels while cycling to work, in an effort to learn more about the layout and connectivity of the street network that would help urban planners and developers.

Cycling safety is dear to Jenna Dutton’s heart, as she commutes daily to UCalgary’s downtown core from Inglewood. She was hit by a car in 2018 while cycling in a painted bike lane.

“Instead of planning areas to accommodate vehicles and haphazardly retrofitting cycling infrastructure, there needs to be equal consideration for cycling as a mode of transportation within a broader interconnected network. This approach would also benefit pedestrians and those with mobility challenges and make the city better for all,” says Dutton.

Benefits of wearable tech

The wearable technology citizen science program has just recently launched and is a one-of-a-kind program that seeks to gather together activity, sleep, and exercise data from tens of thousands of people.  

“Wearable technology has become part of our daily lives with nearly all of us wearing technology on our wrists, and using a smartphone or other devices to track our activities,” says Faculty of Kinesiology’s Dr. Reed Ferber, PhD, also a professor in the Faculty of Nursing and the Cumming School of Medicine. This study currently focuses on Garmin and Fitbit products and will expand to other devices in the near future.

Citizen science has been shown to be a powerful and innovative way to transform academic research through collaboration and co-operation.

Sign up to be a citizen scientist

If you are a cyclist in Calgary and you use a Garmin or Fitbit device, go to the We-TRAC page to become a citizen scientist and allow UCalgary researchers to access your cycling data.

Future studies include collecting data on green space use to aid in promoting physical activity resulting in healthier communities, and monitoring running patterns while Calgarians run and train on our pathways and trails. 

Led by Reed Ferber, the Wearable Technology Research and Collaboration (We-TRAC) program is funded through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The mission of We-TRAC is to train the next generation of wearable technology experts through multidisciplinary training and education. We have assembled a world-class group of researchers and industry partners. For more information go here.

The We-TRAC program and its students are proud to work closely with and contribute to the Biomedical Engineering: Health Monitoring and Management research focus area.

Reed Ferber is a professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology jointly appointed to the Faculty of Nursing and the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He is a member of McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health at the CSM.