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Dick de Waard: how do people with visual impairment cycle?

How do people with visual impairment cycle?

Bicycle mobility helps to reduce traffic jams and helps you stay fit. This applies to everyone, but can people with visual impairment also access these benefits? Can they ride a bike and be safe? In collaboration with Koninklijke Visio, a centre of expertise for people with visual impairment, we have performed extensive research on the ways in which people with impaired vision successfully manage in traffic.

Andreas Flache
Photo: Jeroen van Kooten

In one of these research projects, we studied everyday cycling, often called ‘natural cycling’. We had participants with impaired vision and participants without vision impairment. All of them attached a small GPS camera to their bicycle and made their daily cycling trips. Based on the GPS data, we were able to plot the routes used, and these clearly showed differences in cycling behaviour between the two groups. We found that cyclists with visual impairment adapt their routes in such a way that they can move safely in traffic. For example, they prefer intersections with traffic lights and take bigger margins when crossing an intersection.

People with impaired vision compensate for their disability by choosing alternative routes. This means they are as safe in traffic as other cyclists, and to our knowledge, they are not involved in more accidents than cyclists with no visual impairment. We now use these insights when giving mobility advice. Mobility is much more important than people tend to think. If you cannot travel independently, you are more at risk of suffering from social isolation or depression. This research therefore contributes to keeping as many people as possible both mobile and healthy.

prof. dr. D. (Dick) de Waard
First name
H 179
associate professor "Traffic Psychology and the Retention of Mobility"
Last modified:29 November 2019 3.03 p.m.
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