Bicycle Accident Reconstruction

Techniques and Research Used for Cases Involving Bicycles

Kineticorp’s Director of Visualization, William Neale, discusses the various research, techniques and visual tools that can be used when approaching bicycle accident reconstruction cases. From on-site testing and full scale facilities to video and data analysis, Kineticorp is able to utilize multiple techniques to reconstruct crashes that involve these kinds of non-motorized vehicles.

Video Transcription

William Neale: In general, most accidents are occurring on roadways because that’s where you have the greatest interaction between drivers. Most of those are cars, or some motorized vehicle. But we see a lot of crashes that are non-motorized; bicycles, scooters, rollerblading, skateboards. Those are all man-driven vehicles, but they’re pretty common on the roadways, too. The methods for analyzing non-motorized vehicles can differ from a regular car. For bicycle crashes, for instance, there’s a few different methods we like to use. One would involve on-site testing, where we’re actually at the accident site. For some of the on-site testing, we’ll obtain an exemplar bicycle, and then we’ve got some tools that help us determine speed and position over time. In one of the cases we had, it involved a very steep hill that was very windy. It was a trail path, so vehicles weren’t on it, but they were right next to it. And we were interested in knowing the bike’s maximum speed down the hill and the path that it would take. And also curious to know what the view looked like traveling down that whole path. The full scale facility we have in Denver, we can essentially rebuild the entire accident site in the safety of our backyard. This allows us to test any number of variables, specifically on a case where … We knew what the bicyclist was doing and crash and we knew what the other vehicles were doing in the crash, but we wanted to evaluate what they would have seen from their various vantage points. So we rebuilt the entire intersection as it was at the time of the crash, full scale. We obtained a bicycle and all the vehicles that were involved, and then we were able to do a bunch of different runs and obtain the view that the drivers had of each other through the entire sequence.  A lot of crashes are caught on video, typically surveillance video footage from businesses; or we get it from other cars that happened to be in the area. Good examples of a case that had a bunch of different types of video footage; there was a cyclist that ended up being impacted by a left turning vehicle. But what we were curious about wasn’t necessarily what happened at the time of crash, but the behavior of that cyclist the few blocks back. What speed were they traveling? Were they obeying the traffic laws? Do they seem to be aware of other traffic? So trying to find out those issues required us to analyze the other available footage.  You have to collect the data in the beginning, whether that’s at the site, or in a full scale facility like we have in Denver. You’ve got to collect the data. And then you analyze that data, which sometimes that analysis is in the field, but a lot of times that analysis is done back here in the office using simulation tools and modeling tools and computer animation tools.  Once we know what happens in the crash and we’ve got a good sense of the issues of the crash, we need to communicate what those issues are. These tools range from still scaled models, architectural models of the site and the accident conditions; to more recently, realistic video reenactments, where we’ve got live video or a staged video, and we use computer elements and computer graphic techniques to recreate the accident in a video-realistic way.  So it depends on the issue that we want to explain to the jury, but if we want both an overview and we want a specific issue, we’ll probably use two different techniques.

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