Yesterday’s BikeBiz story about Manuel Marsilio’s talk to "connected car" experts at the Geneva Motor Show generated a lot of interest, with many cyclists on social media criticising the COLEBI boss for his stance, fearing that the use of "bike beacons" to protect cyclists might, in fact, keep them digitally corralled away from future roads used by autonomous vehicles.
However, the Bicycle Association of Great Britain has backed Marsilio. The BAGB’s operations manager Steve Garidis told BikeBiz:
“The Bicycle Association, as a CONEBI member, fully supports CONEBI and its very effective general manager Manuel Marsilio, in its work to engage with new technologies and to take the cycle industry voice to the international bodies which are developing standards and regulations in these areas. It is largely through Manuel’s persistent and long term work that cycling now has a seat at the table, via the World Bicycle Industry Association, at influential bodies such as the UNECE in Geneva."
Garidis added: "To be clear, neither Manuel, CONEBI nor the Bicycle Association have ever suggested, much less called for, mandatory beacons to be carried by cyclists. However, if there are safety or other benefits to be obtained from these emerging connectivity technologies which do not shift the burden of responsibility onto more vulnerable road users, it is important that the cycle industry engages at an early stage.”
In an email, Marsilio said:
"We call on the car industry to work on solutions to detect cyclists and we welcome any constructive cooperation between car industry and bicycle industry, like the example I presented in Geneva."
He reiterated that "to improve road safety, bicycles will have to communicate with other vehicles as well as with the road infrastructure" and he clarified what he meant by an "appropriate regulatory environment."
He said this "means that the bicycle industry should be part of the regulatory discussions together with the car industry and the telecommunications sector, which are leading the process."
He also confirmed that CONEBI is not in favour of compulsory use of bike beacons. "I have never mentioned mandatory beacons for cyclists," he said.
"One of my dreams for autonomous driving lanes is to have more space for cyclists in cities, and not less," he added.
A great many commenters on social media have taken a more dystopian take on Marsilio’s comments.
— Tim Fliss (@tpfliss) March 23, 2018
And historian Peter Norton fears that history is about to repeat itself, with the motor industry trying to again redefine what streets are for and who should be using them. Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, told BikeBiz:
"The tech is new, by it’s a rerun of early 20th Century efforts to regiment road users ostensibly for everyone’s safety, but inevitably also to subordinate all road users to those who feed its biggest market.
"But of course the tech does add a new twist. Motor vehicles are already turning their occupants into lucrative data mines for the data collectors. For automakers and tech companies, this means that their ‘customers’ now are not just road users, but data collectors, and the market for that latter customer is growing much faster than the market for the former. As this happens, what the road users want gets less important relative to what the data collectors want. This effect may well apply to the bike industry too."