Bike Pittsburgh surveys pedestrians and bikers on self-driving cars

Are Pittsburghers comfortable biking next to self-driving cars?

John Blinn


Photo Credit: (MGN Online)

John Blinn, Assistant News Editor

PITTSBURGH — The results of a survey put out by Bike Pittsburgh regarding how bikers felt sharing the road with automated cars are in.

The survey was sent to citizens in early February and was the second survey done by the organization on the topic of self-driving cars.

“It makes you uncomfortable you almost have to be on your heels,” said Jake Cole, a Pittsburgh resident, “The same thing goes with human drivers though, texting and driving impede a lot of drivers so it is a mix.”

RELATED STORY: Bike Pittsburgh seeks input on cycling next to Uber’s self-driving cars

The surveys began in September 2016, when Uber began testing their semi-autonomous cars in the city of Pittsburgh and revealed that drivers felt more comfortable sharing the road with these cars in comparison to human drivers.

The survey also revealed that some pedestrians and bikers were experiencing some close calls with these automated vehicles, some of which caused people to be injured.

After some time though, with advancements to technology, Bike Pittsburgh felt that it was an appropriate time to send out another survey.

Since the first surveys were released, a few things have changed. A tragedy that in Tempe, Arizona is one of those factors.

In 2016, Elaine Herzberg was walking along the street with her bicycle when she was struck by an automated car and killed. This event negatively affected some people’s views on AVs (automated vehicles) and the company Uber.

However, this information did not seem to affect their overall opinions on AV technology.

In fact, current results reveal that people still feel more comfortable with vehicles that are not driven by humans. This complements the results of the first survey that was put out by the organization.

“I think for the most part that the self-driving cars are more than capable of maintaining road safety as well as watching out for pedestrians and stuff like that,” said Sydnee Quigley, another resident of Pittsburgh.

Also similar to the results of the first survey, were reports of dangerous scenarios involving automated cars. There were several reports that said that the automated cars were breaking the 4′ rule required by law. This was causing more close calls between bikers and vehicles.

“These cars are fairly new. What’s to say that four to five years from now what the technology will be like? Will it go bad? what happens if there’s a malfunction?” said Cole.

Reports of these incidents were few and far between, though. Specific reports seemed to only happen along Railroad St in the Strip District.

Some people are optimistic that as time goes by and technology continues to be improved, these incidents will be reduced.

“I think, honestly, that technology will advance soon enough to be able to work out the kinks,” said Quigley.

Bike Pittsburgh’s main concern is safety for bikers and pedestrians and the results of the survey will help show the city and the organization what people want to see if they are going to continue to share the road with AVs.

“I would like to see more hard evidence of what is going on with these vehicles. Maybe some percentages of malfunctions. Have there been any injuries or deaths? Things that kind of give the society in general, knowledge of what these cars bring to the world,” said Jake Cole in regards to what he would like to see happen after the survey results are reviewed.

The results of the survey are helping Bike Pittsburgh determine what policies they would like to see put into place on the road in regards to automated vehicles.

With organizations like Bike Pittsburgh helping regulate safety and hopes of technological improvement, some people remain optimistic about these vehicles of the future.

“I think they’re doing a pretty decent job at maintaining a natural look of an actual driver,” said Sydnee Quigley.

To learn more about the survey and Bike Pittsburgh, check out our article from earlier this year, here, or visit Bike Pittsburgh.