18-year-old Nihar Thakkar from Bengaluru has developed an artificial intelligence – sensor – based first bicycle counter of India. The bicycle counter is fitted inside a digital signboard which counts the number of cyclists using the bicycle lane through the day. It re-sets at midnight and starts counting again.

The bicycle counter was installed on 24th April in the Outer Ring Road bicycle lane at Doddanekundi in Bengaluru in collaboration with Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and residents of Doddanekundi.

The bicycle counter has a camera which captures the image of cyclists passing through the bicycle lane, and using machine learning it records the data of cyclists that shows in a live counter.

Thakkar said “The counter is able to distinguish between bicycles and all other types of vehicles and will count only cyclists in the cycle lane and the service road in both directions”.

The bicycle counter will assist in collecting the usage data of cyclists using the dedicated bicycle lanes, aid in data analysis, better the current facilities, create more cycling infrastructure and promote cycling at large.

Nihar is a pedestrian, a cyclist, a software developer and a volunteer at ‘Relief Riders‘ – a cycling group that helped senior citizens with essential supplies during the pandemic led lockdown. From a young age, he is interested into active mobility, sustainability, coding and machine learning. He has done home schooling from 4th grade onwards and learnt much of the things by-himself.

Nihar always liked cycling and during the pandemic he got an opportunity to explore various parts of his city on two wheels. He is a big fan of public transport and always on the go. While commuting, he actively tweets about public transport, traffic lights, bus priority lanes, cute streets, water fronts, signages, UPI payment on buses, parking woes and urban landscape showcasing his interest for Urban Planning and design.

“Whenever I am on the go, I spot things I ensure to post on twitter and considering a positive response from the followers I feel encouraged to contribute to the city even more using the power of social media” says Thakkar.

Nihar has been working on this project from 2021 and also set-up a ‘Cycle Counter Bot’ twitter handle which tweets daily updates of the bicycle lane usage data.

The live bicycle counter is installed as a pilot project under the Sustainable Mobility Accords (SuMA) funded by DULT.

Nihar is also the founder of the Urban Flow, which develops AI-based tools for cycle lane enforcement, live bicycle counters, and traffic analysis and often referred as a ‘Kidpreneur’ in his circle.

“At Urban Flow, we are building AI-based tools that will help the enforcement of traffic rules. Most of the dedicated cycle lanes are being misused by two-wheelers. In this technology, a camera uses AI to process video footage in real-time to capture and report evidence of violations to traffic police”, he explained.

He further said, “such counters do exists in other countries in cities such a London, Amsterdam, Chicago amongst others but they haven’t been installed in the Indian cities before. There are significant challenges specific to Indian context like diverse types of vehicles and encroachment violations etc. I am a committee member and part of SuMA under the DULT and we intend to install more such counters in our neighbourhoods in the future and encourage sustainable mobility”.

The DULT team is monitoring and analyzing the data and the statistics will be utilized to plan more cycle lanes, evaluate bicycle volume traffic and other possibilities to improve bicycle commute in cities.

Follow Nihar on his twitter handle @nihart1024

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Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai

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