Keen readers of our blog will have followed our updates on the latest round of improvements to Collideoscope, a joint project with Merseyside Road Safety Partnership.
These are now shipped and ready for you to use, so here’s a quick guide to what’s new. Or, if you want the tl;dr version:
- It’s more obvious what the site’s for, where reports are sent and why
- With our new ‘heatmap’ visualisations you can see at a glance where most incidents have been reported
- Data can be easily downloaded for your own purposes
- We’ll guide users to make a police report if their incident warrants it
A clear proposition
After putting quite a bit of thought into wording across the site, we hope that Collideoscope’s two aims are a lot more prominent throughout. These are to collect data on cycling incidents, and to make that data available to those who need it.
This double aim is something that many mySociety sites have in common: they need to cater for people who want to make a report, and people who can make use of the data that those reports generate.
Let’s look at how our recent changes meet the needs of each of these audiences.
Where do reports go?
Collideoscope is based on the same software as FixMyStreet, but unlike our street fault site it doesn’t send your report with the expectation that it will be ‘fixed’.
Instead, here’s what happens:
- Just like FixMyStreet, your report is immediately published on the Collideoscope website for anyone to see.
- It becomes part of the database of incidents that is available for researchers, campaigners etc, to draw upon.
- At the same time, a copy of the report is also sent to your council, but this is to feed into their understanding of dangerous hotspots in their area, rather than with any expectation that they’ll respond.
Suggesting next steps
Of course, there are certain types of incident which should always, by law, be reported to the police. These include those where there’s any injury or damage to property.
Now, we don’t want anyone to think that Collideoscope is an alternative to making a police report. At one point, we considered adding functionality that would allow you to additionally send your report off to the police, but we found that this would be a monumental task, far above the resources we have for this phase of the project.
Zarino, whose research has helped inform these improvements, explained:
Sadly, there’s no standard across the UK that we could plug into: no common set of questions to be answered, no common place for the information to be sent. Plus, the (paper!) police reporting forms are really long — they aim to gather everything that would be needed, should the case go to court.
We didn’t think recreating those forms online would help anyone – not least because the police would, in all probability, just ask the reporter to redo it all on a paper form.
At this point in time, it seems the police are far more geared up to reports being made by phone or in person. So with all this in mind, we’ve ensured that when a user makes a report that meets the required degree of severity, they’re prompted to also let the police know.
Because we have the postcode of the spot where the incident happened, we’re able to give the user a link to the correct police force for the area, and so as not to divert the task in hand, we do this once the Collideoscope report is confirmed.
Users making any type of report will also see a link through which they can find their local cycling campaign group, in case they want to get proactive about improving road safety.
Using Collideoscope’s data
There are a number of ways to access the data on Collideoscope.
As with FixMyStreet, you can view any neighbourhood by inputting the postcode or place name in the search box on the homepage (or asking it to automatically geolocate you). You’ll then see all the incidents reported in the area, with the option to include police reports (England only).
But Collideoscope also has a new feature that makes it easier to understand the density of reports: you’ll notice that some of the roads appear in varying shades of orange. The deeper the colour, the more reports have been made on that street — and if you’re a cyclist yourself, you’ll know at a glance where you need to be extra careful.
So now you can check out your route and know where to take the most care. (If you find this feature distracting, just look for the ‘hide heatmap’ button at the bottom right of the screen).
By council or across the whole country
We’ve introduced a nifty new reports page, from which you can see how many reports have been made, either on a council-by-council basis or for the whole of the UK. Once you’ve picked your council, you can break it down even further, by ward.
There’s the additional option to view graphs grouping incidents by severity and by the other vehicle (if any) that was involved.
This data can be downloaded in CSV form, for anyone who might need it to support planning decisions, research or campaigns.
We hope you’ll go and have a click around the refreshed Collideoscope — and remember it’s there should you be unfortunate enough to get into a cycling scrape in the future. If you do, at least you’ll know that your data is contributing to a good cause.
Will you use this data?
As we’ve described, it’s now very easy for you to self-serve Collideoscope’s data, but all the same, we’d love to hear how you’ll be using it. Drop us a line!
We can also help with any technical questions you may have.
As Zarino explained in his recent blog post, we’ve recently spent time talking to road safety advocates and cycling groups, as we prepare for some big improvements to Collideoscope.
This has resulted in a shortlist of the tickets we’ll be working on, which you’re welcome to browse (and comment on, though this requires a GitHub account).
Collideoscope, like many mySociety projects, is a website of two halves. On the one hand, it invites those involved in a cycling collision or near miss to contribute information to a database; on the other, it provides an output of all that aggregated data for planners, researchers, campaigners and anyone else who will find it useful.
We’ll shortly be making some changes to the site so that its purpose and functionality are crystal clear; but in the meanwhile the next important step was to import the most recent batch of STATS19 data.
STATS19 is the form the police fill in when road accidents are reported, lending its name to the dataset released annually by the Department of Transport. We include this data on Collideoscope alongside our users’ reports: we just take the reports which refer to cycling incidents, and with this latest update we’re now displaying everything from 2013 up to 2016, the most recent data available.
That means, when you browse the site, you can see at a glance how many incidents have occurred in a specific area, not just from our users but from the primary national accident database too. Just click the checkbox (‘show reports from the Department of Transport’) at the top of the page to include them on the map.
So that’s our most recent bit of housekeeping; now watch this space for some bigger changes to Collideoscope.
Image: Charisse Kenion
So the last time we blogged about Collideoscope—our cycling collision and near miss reporting service, based on the FixMyStreet Platform—we’d just begun an exciting new phase of exploratory work, looking into how well the site currently meets user needs around collision prevention, and whether it could do more, for instance, in helping cyclists campaign for better safety measures, or helping police collect collision reports more efficiently.
Since then, we’ve conducted a series of interviews, both with cyclists and campaign groups in the Merseyside area, as well as road safety data specialists from further afield, and also West Midlands Police, whose approach to cycle safety has garnered much praise over the last few years.
One-on-one interviews are a part of the user centred design toolkit that we use a lot at mySociety, when we’re early on in a project, and just want to map out the process or problems people face, without jumping to conclusions over how they could be solved right now.
In this case, we used the interviews to improve our understanding of five main areas:
- The physical process of reporting a collision, or a near miss, to the police.
- What incentives / disincentives cyclists have faced when reporting.
- How police forces currently deal with collision reports, and near miss reports.
- What role video recordings can play in reports / prosecutions, and what legal considerations need to be made, to prevent video damaging the case.
- What data cycle safety campaigners currently use, and what new data they feel could improve their case when arguing for better cycling provision.
The experiences, anecdotes, and connections we collect from interviews like these help us shape our thinking about how to build or improve our products, as well as highlighting particular avenues that need more research, or that we can start prototyping right away.
Take video camera footage, for instance. A number of Collideoscope users have asked that we allow them to upload clips from their helmet- or handlebar-mounted cameras, along with their reports.
But, on the other hand, we’d also heard a lot about how police forces were wary of collecting video footage, and especially worried about online videos damaging the chances of successful prosecutions in court.
Our recent interviews showed us the line isn’t quite so clear – savvy police forces realise video evidence is hard to argue with in court, and they want people to submit videos as often as possible. In reality, if a claim reaches court, it’s not the presence of videos online that poses a problem, but the finger-pointing or speculation that often accompanies online footage in the comments section below the video, or in social media posts. This was fascinating to hear, and immediately gave us ideas as to the changes we might need to make, to protect the integrity of video evidence, if we allowed cyclists to upload clips to Collideoscope.
It was also interesting speaking to campaigners about how the data collected by Collideoscope could help them raise the profile of cycle safety in their local areas, or on a national scale – especially data about near misses, something not covered by the UK’s official STATS19 dataset. We’re going to investigate how we could bring some of our boundary-related reporting expertise from MapIt and FixMyStreet onto Collideoscope, to help policy makers compare safety efforts in different areas, and help campaigners and councillors raise concerns over dangerous hotspots.
Later this month, we’ll begin prototyping how some of the things we‘ve learned could work their way into Collideoscope. We’re also particularly keen to investigate the technical feasibility of integrating directly into police incident reporting products, such as the Egress-powered Operation Snap used by police forces in Wales and soon, hopefully, other forces in the UK.
As before though, our research is by no means complete, so if you have expertise in this field, and would like to be consulted or participate in the project, we’d love to hear from you.
In 2014, along with Integrated Transport Planning (ITP), we created Collideoscope — a service based on our FixMyStreet Platform to map collisions and near misses between motor vehicles and cyclists.
Through a mix of imported Department of Transport Data and user submitted reports, the service highlighted potential dangerous hotspots before cyclists were killed or seriously injured.
Since the launch of Collideoscope, cycling has seen even more of an increase in popularity, and we suspect that there have been numerous new initiatives and campaigns developed to highlight and tackle the dangers faced by cyclists through insufficient provision of safe cycling infrastructure and dangerous driving.
So a recent approach from the Merseyside Road Safety Partnership (MRSP) was of great interest: they wanted to explore how we might revisit this task and determine if Collideoscope still has a role to play — or whether some other approach might be more beneficial.
Over the next three months, with the help of funding from MRSP, we plan to carry out a fresh discovery exercise to identify up to date user needs around collision prevention, and also determine how well served these issues are already by other similar initiatives around the country.
In addition to speaking to cyclists, campaign groups and safety experts, we’ll also be working with MRSP and in particular the Cycling Safety team within Merseyside Police to better understand how submission of reports can actually contribute to the development of actionable policy.
We’d also like to better understand the process of evidence submission, especially video evidence, in cases of near misses and collisions, and improve how that might lead to appropriate enforcement action.
For the moment we’re approaching all of this with a very open mind. We’re not going to assume that Collideoscope as it currently exists is necessarily the correct approach, and even if it does have a role to play we suspect it may need to be substantially altered to cater to any newly identified user needs.
Whilst this exploratory part of the project is going to be centred on Merseyside, we’re keen to hear from groups across the country and if you’d like to be consulted or participate in the research we would be keen to hear from you.
In the meantime, ride safe and we’ll update with progress reports over the next few weeks.
Photo by Roman Koester on Unsplash
It’s been a while since we looked in on Collideoscope, our project for reporting and collating data on cycling collisions and near misses, developed in collaboration with ITP. But what better time than now, when days are short and accidents have unfortunately, as always at this time of year, taken a sharp upturn.
So, let’s have a catch-up, and a reminder that you should use the service. Of course, we hope you won’t experience any problems, but remember that Collideoscope is there if you do.
Previously on Collideoscope…
As you may recall, Collideoscope is a site for reporting cycling incidents, collisions and near misses. Because it’s built on the FixMyStreet platform, it offers all the same functionality for the user: it’ll help you to pinpoint the precise location of the incident you’re reporting, and then send the details off to the relevant authorities.
When cyclists make a report, they’re contributing to an open dataset that improves the quality of the evidence base on cycling incidents.
While FixMyStreet sends reports off to councils, Collideoscope sends reports to local authorities’ highways departments, with the aim of highlighting potential accident blackspots.
The data, after going through an anonymisation process, is also shared with campaign groups.
Finally, the anonymised data is also available for anyone to download via Socrata, to be used for any purpose. One potential project we’d love to see, for example, would be route-planning applications to help cyclists avoid going through areas with a high density of incidents.
The data is also available to researchers, town planners and the police: when cyclists make a report, they’re contributing to an open dataset that improves the quality of the evidence base on cycling incidents.
So, that’s the model. Let’s have a look at how well it has stood up.
Collideoscope launched in October 2014 and users have thus far made a total of 1,195 reports.
In order to provide a more complete dataset with the clearest possible indicators of accident hotspots, we also imported STATS19 data from the annually-updated open police database of accidents, meaning that Collideoscope now contains data points on over 20,000 incidents across the UK.
Here’s what we’ve learned
Steering a project from concept to reality is always a learning process. Here are some of the key lessons that emerged:
- Collideoscope sends each report to authorities as it is submitted. It became clear that a bulk dataset would be easier for highways authorities to handle and to draw conclusions from, and this is now available.
- Originally, we’d believed that it would be useful if Collideoscope could forward reports to local police forces, so that they could be actioned where suitable. However, this proved impractical, because the Road Traffic Act states that collisions must be reported to a police officer in person. Collideoscope’s data would not be sufficient for police to take action on those cases which merited it.
- There was some concern that reports made via Collideoscope would replicate, rather than complement, the police force’s official STATS19 data. Happily, once enough reports had come into Collideoscope, a comparison was run and found that there is very little overlap between the two datasets.
While STATS19 data tends to cover serious incidents, it doesn’t hold much on the near miss or minor incidents that Collideoscope encourages users to also report — and which make up 90% of the Collideoscope database. One of the underlying beliefs behind Collideoscope has always been that near miss data can tell us a lot about accident prevention.
ITP have now stepped away from Collideoscope: we’re extremely grateful for their collaboration and support with the development and running of Collideoscope in its first couple of years. This move will mean that we can pursue funding from charitable grant foundations.
As you may recall from prior updates, the site was also supported by the Barts Bespoke campaign, a multi-pronged initiative to reduce accidents for cyclists. This support, and a further research grant from the Department for Transport, came to an end last month. As a result, we’ll no longer be asking people about injuries sustained when they file a Collideoscope report.
Collideoscope will keep on rolling: we’re open to potential partners and have plenty of ideas for further development, including the possibility of a public API, or incident-reporting forms that could be placed on any website.
If you’re from a local government, third sector or private company, and you’re interested in using Collideoscope data to enable better decision making on cycle safety, this’d be a great time to get in touch.
This hill is dangerous by John Kennedy (CC by-nc/2.0)
Falling off bike sign by Rob (CC by-nc-sa/2.0)