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Western Australian Director General of Transport bans cycling hazard reporting by Neatstreets

REECE WALDOCK Director General Department of Transport

Mr Reece Waldock Director General Department of Transport

Recently the Director General of Transport in Western Australia, Mr Reece Waldock indicated that he was banning the accepting of cycling hazard reports from the likes of Neatstreets, Snap-Send-Solve and similar applications as well as the Greens Bike Black Spots website.

I raised my concerns with Mr Waldock’s decision with the Minister of Transport, The Honourable Troy Buswell who in turn asked Mr Waldock to respond. I have uploaded Mr Waldock’s full response which you can find here.

I do have a number of concerns with Mr Waldock’s response which seems to show a lack of understanding of how the likes of Neatstreets and Snap-Send-Solve work and more concerning a lack of understanding of his own Department of Transport’s hazard reporting system. This is a serious concern given Mr Waldock’s comment in his response to me that

I do not consider that committing increased resources to track, monitor,determine ownership of a hazard from multiple applications and send reports to each infrastructure owner manually is an efficient use of government resources.

Just for the record the current government approach is to report directly to the relevant council, to Main Roads WA, to Public Transport Authority or to report via the Department of Transport’s hazard reporting system or the Mains Roads WA hazard reporting system. I can only assume Mr Waldock considers this an efficient approach.  Frankly I don’t consider it is. Let me explain why and I will restrict my comments mainly to Neatstreets as that application is the one I am most familiar with. The primary points I wish to make relate to:

  1. How Neatstreets and for that matter Snap-Send-Solve actually make use of GPS data and how they work;
  2. That Neatstreets only interacts with Main Roads WA/Public Transport Authority if the user specify this which is the same as the Department of Transport’s hazard reporting system;
  3. Department of Transport’s apparent monitoring of hazard reports – an efficient use of state government resources? I don’t think so;
  4. Neatstreets and the bicycle network – again Mr Waldock’s response is regretfully seriously lacking;
  5. Department of Transport’s hazard reporting system ignores non-metropolitan users;
  6. 350 reports via the hazard reporting system not a measure of success by any means.

Neatstreets and reporting hazards in Western Australia

First and foremost Neatstreets makes use of one’s smart phone’s GPS signal to identify the location of the hazard (the user can refine this by using the map feature to more accurately locate the hazard point). The user is also required to take a photo of the hazard and to report on the type of hazard. The GPS location (map), the photo, and the report is then processed by Neatstreets and sent DIRECTLY to the relevant local government body, NOT to the Department of Transport as Mr Waldock implies. This alone brings in to question the response from Mr Waldock.  Maybe someone can explain how this is an inefficient use of government resources because I sure can not work at how it is.

The only time that Neatstreets interacts with a government department under Mr Waldock’s responsibility is IF the user indicates that that hazard should be reported to Main Roads WA or the Public Transport Authority. Once again Main Roads WA or the Public Transport Authority would receive the GPS location (map), the photo, and the report. How Mr Waldock would could conclude that this would take increased resources to “to track, monitor,determine ownership of a hazard from multiple applications and send reports to each infrastructure owner manually is an efficient use of government resources” is once again beyond me.

This is of course in effect exactly what users of the Department of Transport’s hazard reporting system are asked to do, except that they cannot use this system to report issues to the Public Transport Authority.

If one does not use the likes of Neatstreets the alternative reporting options are to phone or email Mains Road WA and mostly likely provide even less detailed information (i.e., how many of us actually would have the GPS coordinates or map or photo) to attach to a phone call or an email using the Main Roads reporting form?

If one prefers there is also the option to use the Department of Transport’s hazard reporting system which does not allow more specific location identifying information. Worse still is the Department of Transport’s PDF map which is meant to assist in identifying the council area you are in or if it is a Main Roads WA or Public Transport Authority area. In my experience the map is very frustrating to use and does not easily identify council boundaries in a many instances (e.g., Town of Mosman Park) and does not show Public Transport Authority areas of responsibility at all from what I can determine. I suspect that Mr Waldock has no experience at all of his own department’s map.

Furthermore you cannot use cannot use the Department’s system to report hazards to the Public Transport Authority a department within Mr Waldock’s area of responsibility! Instead the Department advises to “For hazards on shared paths in railway precincts, please inform the Public Transport Authority” but no contact information is provided.

What is worse is that Mr Waldock considers that a user estimating their location and using the Department’s hazard reporting system is more efficient use of state government resources than Neatstreets providing more accurate location data, photos and reports. Can someone please explain this logic?

Department of Transport monitoring of its hazard reporting system – Efficient use of government resources?

Regretfully Mr Waldock’s lacking does not end there. Mr Waldock goes on to state

My staff monitor the hazard reports and check that they have been assigned to the correct authority.

So on one hand Mr Waldock does not believe that “committing increased resources to track, monitor, determine ownership of a hazard from multiple applications and send reports to each infrastructure owner manually is an efficient use of government resources” yet Mr Waldock considers it is an efficient use of state government resources to monitor hazard reports to check that they have been assigned to the correct authority. Contradiction here?

The logic of this argument is beyond me. So Mr Waldock considers it efficient to have to check reports lodged through the Department of Transport’s website, even though the user of the website has to nominate the relevant council or authority and that the report is immediately sent to the council etc via email, yet if Neatstreets provides all the afore mentioned data directly to the council or to Main Roads WA or the Public Transport Authority it is inefficient?

Neatstreets and the bicycle network – again Mr Waldock’s response is regretfully seriously lacking

Mr Waldock states

applications such as Neat Streets (sic) and Bike Black Spots do not provide the user with any information regarding the relevant owner of a section the bicycle network.

Mr Waldock is quite correct with respects to Neatstreets, but then neither does his own department’s hazard reporting website without some effort on part of the user to try and interrogate the PDF map provided or use their own knowledge. Is there a difference? Of course with Neatstreets the user does not need to know the relevant council and only needs to make a note in the report if the report needs to go to Main Roads as guess what Neatstreets uses the GPS coordinates of the hazard to work out who to send the report to! Funny that.

Department of Transport’s hazard reporting system ignores non-metropolitan users

Also Mr Waldock does not seem to grasp that cyclists and pedestrians may actually use roads and paths outside of the bicycle network. For example if you live outside of the greater metropolitan area, bad luck as you cannot use the Department of Transport’s hazard reporting website. That is right, so you cannot use the Department’s hazard reporting system and you cannot use Neatstreets according to Mr Waldock!

Thankfully smart users outside of the metropolitan area can use Neatstreets to bypass Mr Waldock’s head in the sand attitude (and his department’s website which discriminates against those users) and report directly to Councils.

Thanks to Neatstreets for thwarting Mr Waldock’s decision.

With respect to the principal shard paths, a user of Neatstreets can use exactly the same information provided to the users of the Department of Transport’s hazard reporting website to determine if it is Main Roads issue by taking onboard the information provided, i.e.,

For traffic lights and major principal shared paths along freeways, major highways and railway tracks, a report should be sent to Main Roads WA using their online form or calling 138 138.

For hazards on shared paths in railway precincts, please inform the Public Transport Authority.

If anyone can advise where you can get easy to use information to determine railway precincts can you please leave a comment below with the details. I have not be able to use the Department of Transport’s PDF map to determine this information.

350 reports via the hazard reporting system not a measure of success by any means

Mr Waldock also notes that

there have been over 350 hazard reports sent through the hazard reporting system in 2012 to date.

That is great, however Mr Waldock hasn’t advise how many reports where made directly to councils and Main Roads WA , how many reports where made via the Main Roads WA reporting form and phone number and most importantly how many reports where not made because of any difficulties using the hazard reporting system.

Also Mr Waldock fails to demonstrate with any veracity why hazards shown on the Bike Black Spots website are being ignored. Is Mr Waldock trying to suggest because they are shown on the Bike Black Spots website they don’t exist? Is this his way of using state government resources efficiently? You know pretend that a hazard does not exist and hence there is no need to spend money? But wait, if you report that same hazard through the Department of Transport’s hazard reporting system it suddenly magically appears as a hazard. Of course you have do the ground work to be able to report it properly. I suggest just ignoring Mr Waldock and using Neatstreets to report directly to the relevant authority. Saves a lot of pain.

Concluding comments

My understanding from the Department of Transport’s 2010-2011 annual report (the 2011-2012 annual report is yet to be published) that Mr Waldock is payed in the salary band $500,00 to $510,00, and hence ask the question is having a Director General so ill-informed as to how Neatstreets and his own department’s hazard reporting system works despite it being raised with him at least twice and with the Minister of Transport, is an efficient use of government resources? Surly it is reasonable to assume that the Director General should be informed before responding, before making such decisions?

The Western Australian community deserves a far higher standard of competence from its State government Director Generals than shown here.

I hope that Mr Waldock takes a moment to reflect on his lack of understanding shown in his response and immediately adopts a competent approach to management of cycling hazards and reverses his decision. An apology for his response to me would be nice as well but I am not holding my breath.

Your Turn To Talk

I hope you found this post informative! Please do stop by the comment section below and share your thoughts Mr Waldock’s decision and/or my response.

I am always interested in feedback on my posts, how I might improve them and what others thoughts are so please do share your views by leaving a comment below :)

14 Responses to Western Australian Director General of Transport bans cycling hazard reporting by Neatstreets

  1. michaelroper September 28, 2012 at 8:09 AM #

    Wow. Did not realise this was happening, but just wow.

    Personally, I think NeatStreets (and SnapSendSolve) are some of the most useful apps around, and having worked on a project for a different government department that involved taking reports from the public, you would think that the extra information that these apps provide the authorities would be nothing but useful.

    I ‘ve submitted 3 reports in the last week with NeatStreets, all of which have been accepted by City of Perth, so we can only hope that NeatStreets keeps their great service going regardless of this decision…

    • Aushiker September 28, 2012 at 9:53 AM #

      Yep and really it is no different from using the the Department of Transport’s hazard reporting system. I suspect that Mr Waldock is very poorly advised which does not surprise me. Thankfully we can use Neatstreets and the like to report directly to councils. The issue is more with the PTA and Main Roads WA (PSP).

      Hopefully Mr Waldock will take steps to address his lack of understanding and reverse his decision.

      • michaelroper September 28, 2012 at 10:23 AM #

        Yeah, that will be my main problem – most of my commute is down Albany Hwy, which, because it’s a highway, is the domain of MRWA. I’ve never found them particularly responsive at the best of times.. any dealings with local councils have been great though.

  2. Aaron September 28, 2012 at 9:20 AM #

    Dear Australia: Your politicians don’t give a shit about you or your problems.

    • Aushiker September 28, 2012 at 9:50 AM #

      That is a rather cynical view and one that I would suggest there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. They like to be re-elected :)

  3. spokin September 29, 2012 at 12:15 AM #

    What is the man’s hidden agenda – surely apps like neatstreets has been doing a great job by the fact that its a very popular free app. Perhaps his penny hasn’t dropped yet… don’t wait too long … life’s way too short

    • Aushiker September 29, 2012 at 10:48 AM #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am not sure there is an agenda, well not one from Mr Waldock explicitly, but I do think he is very poorly advised by his staff who seem take a short sighted view of matters at times. This is not the only related issue, there is also the issue of reflectors on pedals which again the Department of Transport has failed to sort. It is pretty funny that Mr Waldock refers to efficient use of government resources when his department has to do yet another review of the regulations to get it right.

      That said I suspect the issue with the Bike Black Spot website is that it is a Green’s initiative so of course that will get a negative response. Now a negative response is fine from the politicians BUT shouldn’t becoming from a public servant who is paid $500,000+ plus a year to serve the public.

  4. Tom October 1, 2012 at 10:36 AM #

    So the crux of the argument to not accept reports from NeatStreets, is that councils will need to determine who owns the asset in question? Surely this is part of their job, and the service they provide to the community?

    It’s just not the right attitude. People use these fantastically helpful tools to help contribute to the community, to make councils and organisations aware of problems they might not see themselves, and to make a difference.
    http://neatstreets.com.au/report/10008756
    http://neatstreets.com.au/report/10009055

    If you raise the difficulty bar by having someone interrogate a map to decide who’s responsible, is that better… for the community? Who’s to say they’ll even get it right?

    While the point of these apps is to help people out in a positive way, isn’t there a requirement on the part of the government to act on issues reported to them?

    • Aushiker October 1, 2012 at 11:13 PM #

      Thanks for your comments Tom. You have pretty much hit the nail on the head. I only have small “correction” and that is Mr Waldock’s issue is that he seems to believe that Neatstreets reports are sent to his department, the Department of Transport, which is as you note not the case. The only time a report would go to a department under his control is when a user advises Neatsreets that it should go to Main Roads WA or the Public Transport Authority.

  5. Tristan October 19, 2012 at 12:50 PM #

    The fact that Neat Streets, Snap-Send-Solve and Bike Black Spot apps exist is evidence enough that the DoT reporting mechanisms are not effectual. Having the community help in reporting issues is definitely worthwhile. Mr Waldock has an opportunity to fully understand the current arrangement, crystallise the issues with it, and develop a better reporting tool if he truly thinks the existing apps aren’t efficient.

    • Aushiker October 20, 2012 at 8:47 AM #

      Excellent points which Mr Reece Waldock and the Department of Transport need to take on.

  6. David October 23, 2012 at 1:52 PM #

    Citizen asked Minister who asked Director General to respond… who should have handed it down to someone more competent to get it right and give them some credit along the way. The photo used gives me a Peter Fonda taxidermist killer from Second skin chill, making me hesitant to criticise his incompetence.
    ref: http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTIxNzYzNTA1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNzU2NTU1._V1._SX267_SY400_.jpg

  7. lovelessrobot October 28, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

    Is it wrong of me to think we should protest via an influx of hazard report forms to be delivered to Mr Waldock all describing the pitfalls of the hazard report form system?? Or perhaps just an influx of email??
    I know I will be writing my angry letter. I have been perplexed by the system since moving to WA, especially with the knowledge that there are apps out there to deal with these issues for us in a much more succinct manner. Does anyone know his email by chance?

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