Cycling is a great form of active travel, with clear health and environmental benefits.
Yet cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users, second only to motorcyclists in terms of casualty rates per billion passenger miles.
Many areas are seeking to encourage more cycling, and are improving infrastructure to create safer spaces. Having good data on cycle accidents and the factors that can influence safety is really important when it comes to planning how to do this.
Annual figures on cyclist casualties in Great Britain, published by the Department for Transport, only include accidents that were reported to the police. However, many cyclist injuries are not reported to the police, even when the injury is so serious that the cyclist is taken to hospital.
In 2020, RoSPA and See.Sense came together to trial an innovative “crowdsourced” way of collecting more cycling data to see how additional insights could inform local action on cycle safety.
What happened in the Cycle Smart Brum project?
Cycle Smart Brum aimed to identify cycling conditions across Birmingham and provide a wider understanding of unreported collisions.
More than 200 cyclists across the city took part, and the hope was that the data they collected could be used to anticipate where and how cycling incidents may occur – before they actually happen.
Each cyclist received a See.Sense ACE Intelligent Rear Light. In exchange, they agreed to have data insights collected from their rides, covering speed and dwell times, surface condition, movement patterns, swerving, heavy braking and, crucially, near-miss incidents.
The project also examined the Department for Transport’s reported road casualty data for cyclists, and compared this with the measurements collected by the See.Sense lights to establish the relationship between reported and unreported incidents with a view to developing a predictive model.
What data insights on cycle safety came out of the project?
Over the period of the study, 42,161km was travelled by the cyclists, representing 798,292,700 individual sensor readings for swerving, braking and surface condition. It was not practical to consider each reading individually, so we split a map of Birmingham into 10-metre squares to create 172,471 aggregate data collections, which can be mapped to visualise and analyse the data.
In areas where there were three or more cyclists making 15 or more journeys, we observed that cyclists were 2.4 times more likely to experience a heavy brake or swerve event in the immediate vicinity of recorded cycle accidents.
We would propose that this could form the basis for a useful investigative tool to quickly identify the most hazardous cycling areas. Or alternatively, this could be used as a tool to analyse an area based on other indicating data, such as reports from cyclists.
"We are excited to work with RoSPA to bring technology and the cycling community together, to enable more cycling and improve journeys for everyone."
Irene McAleese, co-founder and chief strategy officer, See.Sense