Road safety design application

I was driving along the other day, negotiating the usual array of parked cars, buses, school crossings, and pedestrians when I overtook a cyclist. Nothing particularly unusual about that, but it made me wonder…

I’ve been driving for nearly 20 years, and in that time I’ve had no feedback about how well I drive around cyclists. I’ve not knocked anyone off their bike, which some might consider feedback enough, but there may have been times when from a cyclists perspective I’ve been too close.

It’s probably not that easy for cyclists to offer their opinion about their fellow road users. In contrast, when a motorist is unhappy with another driver they often provide timely feedback by beeping their horn, shouting, using some kind of hand gesture, or probably by doing all three. But the moment of opportunity is severely restricted for cyclists. They are more likely to have a bell than a horn, so cannot easily attract the attention of an unaware driver hidden within their vehicular bubble. Also, due to differences in speed, car drivers are often merrily on their way oblivious to whatever they have done, before a cyclist can adequately address them. So I started thinking that it might be cool if somehow drivers could be informed when a cyclist considers their driving to be less than safe.

Maybe there’s some kind of mobile app in this thought (as there probably is for so many things). However, such an application would need instant communication between the cyclists phone and the drivers phone, and of course, it would require motorists to care enough to actually download and use the application, so uptake might be an issue. More of an issue is whether a cyclist should be encouraged to distract any driver that is over taking them, particularly one that is too close. Hmm probably not. So maybe this idea should be dismissed.

Nevertheless, feedback from cyclists about bad driving could still be exceptionally useful. An application could enable a cyclist to log when someone has driven too close to them, for example with a screen tap, which then automatically register their location using GPS and their direction of travel. The results are then automatically uploaded and collated with results from other cyclists.

The resulting data could be used to highlight locations where there are a high number of reports of poor driving around cyclists. This information could then be used to focus investigations into whether there is anything about the road design, or it’s lighting, that might be exacerbating the number of close calls between cyclists and motor vehicles. Then potential solutions to any road design issues could be investigated in an effort to a make our roads safer.

The application could be coupled with a website where registered users can provide more information. This would also enable motorists to log information about locations where they deem cyclists behaviour to be unsafe, which may also highlight areas where road design could be improved.

This is just a thought. I haven’t spent any time researching whether there is anything out there that does this already. I have no idea whether this would be something that cyclists would be interested in using. I can only hope that such an application and it’s resulting data would be of interest to local councils in their road safety initiatives. I’m not technically able enough to put something together, but I would be very interested in the resulting data.

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One response to “Road safety design application

  1. I often wonder what other factors play a part in influencing how we interact with the road as drivers (I both cycle and drive).

    To what extent do the day’s impending activities affect drivers in the morning? When driving I find I get cut up more often in the morning, usually by people who then have to sit in front of me in a queue of traffic only moments later, trying to appear important, as if they’re on their way to perform life-saving brain surgery, whilst looking anywhere but the mirror lest they make eye contact.

    When cycling, cars often come past me with music or the radio on, so any attempt at verbal communication is pointless – it’s necessary to shout loudly just to make your presence known, and that kind of introduction can put the driver on the defensive so I avoid it. Staying on the subject of music, how can different tempos and genre’s of music affect driving styles. My unscientific observation is that loud urgent rhythms are often accompanied by over-revved engines and faster acceleration/deceleration/cornering.

    Does the capsule of the vehicle isolate the driver from the reality of the environment they’re driving in? On windy days it’s easy to get blown left and right on a bike by even a small gust, but with car windows up the weather conditions become something that must be braved for a short time at the end of the journey and are largely ignored.

    On warmer days, how does Air-Conditioning / Climate Control further reduce awareness of what’s going on outside the car, or change the behavior of the driver?

    If we’re going to consider how roads are designed to improve safety, how do these factors affect the way those designs are interpreted?

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