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Collideoscope: A New Open Data App Aiming to Cut Cycling Accidents

Bicycle broken in an accident at the side of the roadA new app, called Collideoscope, using open data and crowdsourcing has the ambitious aim of trying to find out why cycle accidents occur so they may be prevented in future.

Every year in the UK around 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents, including around 3,000 who are killed or seriously injured (source: Rospa). but these are only the accident that are reported to the police; is estimated that there could be two or three times as many seriously injured cyclists and double the number of slightly injured.

Collideoscope aims to collect data on everything from full-on cycle accidents to near-misses and anyone involved in an incident is encouraged to record it on the site.

The information will then be shared with Highways Departments, cycle campaigns, police forces and health care providers to improve understanding of factors affecting cycle safety in the UK.

Below: Screenshot of Collideoscope website.

Screenshot of Collideoscope website

The project is the brainchild of mySociety, which is a project of a charity called UK Citizens and it is put together by a collective of programmers. MySociety has already helped to revolutionise public access to information in many ways in the UK. It is the team behind sites such as:

  • FixMyStreet (which makes it easy to report a problem in your area – even if you don't know who is responsible for fixing it)
  • FixMyTransport (which lets you contact any the customer services department of any UK transport operator to resolve an issue)
  • TheyWorkForYou (which provides links to politicians' speeches and written answers, and let's users add comments)
  • Travel Time Maps (which lets you choose a start point, journey time, and mode of transport then displays your Travel Time area)
  • HassleMe (which nags you via email to do the things you keep forgetting to do) 
  • HearFromYourMP (which lets people nag their MPs about what they're up to).

Collideoscope uses the same technology as FixMyStreet, so a user places a pin in a map to show where an incident occurred, and the system alerts the appropriate authority; for cycle incidents this will be the local authority Highways department and/or the local police.

But the data will go further than that. The site's two sponsors are a charity campaigning to use technology to improve healthcare within their local NHS trust (Barts & The London Charity), and a campaign to reduce accidents for cyclists (Bespoke). The data will be combined with other data on cycling injuries collected in the emergency department at the Royal London Hospital.

The ultimate aim is to determine what factors lead to the accidents, whether it is the surrounding road layout, potholes in the area, the type of vehicles involved or whether the cyclist was not wearing high visibility clothing.

All reports will be published openly, enabling anyone to browse them, thereby increasing public knowledge about what's effective in road safety, and what set-ups appear to make accidents more likely.

Across the country a geographic picture will build up of dangerous hotspots for cyclists. Viewers will be able to manipulate the data to, for example, isolate all the accidents within a specific council's boundaries, or in a given month.

It is hoped that the evidence gathered will to generate recommendations about how future accidents can be prevented.

The Bespoke project

The Bespoke project is a collaboration between the research teams of the Orthopaedic and Emergency Departments of Barts Health NHS Trust, and with Barts Charity, ITP and mySociety to explore bicycle related injuries in London.

With growing cycle use in London, researchers from the Health Trust have observed an increase in the number of cyclists being brought into the Accident and Emergency Departments with injuries caused by incidents on London's roads.

Barts and The London Charity already think that they might extend the project to record incidents such as playground accidents, falls, and street violence.

The Bespoke project already knows that over the last 10 years there has been an observed increase of nearly 400% in the number of cyclists being brought to the Royal London Hospital who die or are seriously injured.

Graph of cycle incidents in London 2004-2013

Despite the relative increase in the number of cyclists, this state of affairs is considered unacceptable. Royal London Hospital TARN Data reveals that:

  • HGVs make up 4% of traffic in London but are involved in 53% of cyclist deaths. (GLA 2013)
  • Junctions account for 20% of road space but are the sites of 75% of cyclist deaths. (GLA 3013)

But the data does not provide the granular level of detail that is required to allow researchers and those in local government to identify patterns that can inform injury prevention programmes, hence the need for Collideoscope.

This data also does not reveal the long term impact of cycle related trauma or the costs associated with injuries that do not result in death.

mySociety hopes that other countries will copy the initiative as they have with some of its other projects.