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CYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE: Reporting Cycling Hazards – Infrastructure and People

We as cyclists out on our rides, whether they be commutes or training rides or group rides or whatever often encounter hazards (stupid driving, glass, potholes, overhanging branches and the list goes on). Well we do have the opportunity to do something about these hazards both for our own benefit (e.g., on a regular commute) and for our fellow cyclist and even drivers in some instances. In Western Australia (and some of these websites/applications can be used across Australia) we do have some reporting options.

INFRASTRUCTURE HAZARDS – PHYSICAL AS OPPOSED TO PEOPLE

In Western Australia we have two specific reporting websites, one developed by the Department of Transport and the other by Main Roads WA. In addition we have a website developed by RolandP, a board member of the Bicycle Transport Alliance,  which has an Australia wide focus, as well as a specific reporting website for the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and finally there is for the iPhone users an application called Snap Send Solve.  Please scroll down for more details on each of these reporting tools.

 

Department of Transport Hazard Report Form

The Department of Transport hazard report form is for reporting hazards which fall under the control of Perth metropolitan councils and Mandurah. To use this form you need to know which Council the hazard falls within as the report goes directly to the Council. I am not sure what happens if you get the Council wrong: maybe the Council receiving the initial email will contact you or pass the report it on to the relevant Council if you are lucky.

I am less than impressed by the Department of Transport efforts here for a number of reasons. They are:

(1) The reporting is limited to Perth and Mandurah – the rest of the State gets ignored by this State government department (work that one out);

(2) The form requires you to know which council the hazard is located in. The map of council boundaries is pretty useless if the hazard is located near a possible boundary. If in doubt I strongly recommend giving the Department’s form a flick and using the Main Road’s one – they are more skilled at sorting this out it seems;

(3) The form does not provide a copy of what you reported. Oh they send you an acknowledgement but with no details!  The stupid thing is they can send an email with the details to the Council you nominate but cannot carbon copy that same email to you, the reporter!   It makes you wonder.

(4) If the hazard is a traffic light or is on a major principal shared path running alongside a freeway or major highways or railway tracks you can’t use this form; you have to use the Main Road one.

(5) Shared paths in railway precincts are the responsibility of the Public Transport Authority which should be notified of hazards directly at http://www.pta.wa.gov.au/AboutUs/ContactUs/tabid/124/Default.aspx.  Good luck on that one!

Confused? Wondering why the Department of Transport can’t get its act together and offer one coordinated approach? Well, so I am I!

Main Roads Report a Problem

Your second option is Main Roads.  Main Roads prefer you to only report matters under their control but they will pass on your report to the relevant Council etc if appropriate and they will advise you that they have done so and most times send you a copy of your email with the details.  How smart is that?  So please don’t abuse this offer.  This form is for reporting traffic light and hazards on principal shared paths running alongside freeways and major highways and other hazards where you just can’t work out who is responsible for it.

The big advantage with the Main Roads approach is the form is simple and straight forward.

Australian Cycling Infrastructure Issues

From the website …

Australian Cycling Infrastructure Issues site is about helping to identify and display issues with our cycling infrastructure.   Our aim is to get members of the public to capture this data, it can then be used to demonstrate where the trouble areas are so that those responsible for it, can more effectively see where the issues are and resolve the issues.

If you are aware of a cycling infrastructure issue, use this site to record it.

My understanding with this site is it is to record more major infrastructure issues, rather than ones such as broken glass and the like. That is an issue which can’t be easily fixed within a day or so.

I have had a few problems with registering/logging in with the website so haven’t really used it but if they can sort these issues out I think it will be a good resource.

City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Path Report Form

Screen shot 2011 04 23 at 5 48 25 PM

This form is for reporting path hazards but I assume road ones can be reported as well. It is only for the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Snap Send Solve –iPhone and Android Application

Snap Send Solve is a neat app for the iPhone and Android that allows you to record the details of a hazard on the spot, take a photo and report it to the relevant Council. However it does take way more time than the 30 seconds claimed by the designers. Why do they feel the need to promote such inaccurate claims? It would be much better if they focused on developing this okay app into a brilliant one in my view.

The idea with Snap Send Solve is that you can send an email from your iPhone directly to the relevant Council along with a map showing the location of the incident, a photo and other relevant details which you input.

The way it works is that you fire up the app on your iPhone (there goes most of the 30 seconds) and once it gets past the flash screen you come to the Add New Report screen where you hit start. On this screen is details of your previous reports as well.

A report consists of:

  • Incident type – Snap Send Solve has 14 incident types but does not have one for the biggest problem for cyclists; broken glass. The next best option is Street Cleaning.
  • Notes – you can add free form notes if you so wish.
  • Address – Snap Send Solve should do a reasonable job locating you using the iPhone’s GPSr. My experience is not that great here. It does however let you enter an address manually if the GPSr cannot locate you properly. For me it always defaults to Victoria even though I live in Western Australia which is odd and frustrating.
  • Take photo or select photo – You can take a photo of the hazard or select one already on the phone.  The photo is added to the email to the Council.
  • Send. The app determines the appropriate Council based on the hazard address and sends them a email with the report.

You also have the option to save a report and send it later.

Whilst I like the idea of doing it all from the side of the road I do have some niggles with this application:

  1. The incident types are not that relevant to cyclists and do seem to have some odd options in there, e.g., Animals.  It would be good if broken glass is an option and if you can added your own incident types if you experience regular issues;
  2. Address feature – should at least default to your state;
  3. A copy of the report to your own email address would be handy;
  4. Does not allow for overriding of the reporting Council which is an issue here in Western Australia as the State Government Department, Main Roads, is responsible for some bicycle dual use paths;
  5. Reports cannot be deleted;
  6. No sharing of reports on Twitter etc;

On the positive side it allows for reporting on the ground, it allows for a photo to be easily added to the report and it allows for the flag in the map to be moved to be a more accurate indicator of the hazard location and least but not last it is free.

All up a good, but not brilliant app for smartphone users.

 

NeatStreets – iPhone, Android and Blackberry Application

Neatstreets

NeatStreets is another player in the smartphone market that allows you to report numeros types of hazards on spot. A report with NeatStreets includes the text of the issue, photo and Google map. All of which is sent off to the relevant authority.  Because the process is “human” at the NeatStreets end the report can be redirected to the likes of Main Roads WA when it is their issue, rather than just the local council as per Snap Send Solve.

A report consists of:

  • Category – NeatStreet has 14 category types plus some categories  have sub-categories allowing you to be more specific with the category type.
  • Description – This is where you can free form notes including advice as to the appropriate reporting authority for example.
  • Address – NeatStreet should do a reasonable job locating you using your phone’s GPSr however you can easily edit  the location by scrolling the map. My experience is that it not that great but the scrolling option makes it quick and easy to get it right.
  • Take photo  – You can take a photo of the hazard. There is no option to select a photo. The photo is included in your report.
  • Send. The app determines the appropriate Council based on the hazard address. There is some handling of the report at NeatStreets end so the report does not go direct to the Council. This allows for re-direction if desired.

You also have the option to save a report and send it later.

Some other cool features of NeatStreets:

  • Your reports are kept on the phone under the heading “My Reports.”
  • The reports database provides a quick status update of the report plus the ability to add comments from your phone and to report when an issue has been sorted.
  • Old reports can be deleted from the phone database.
  • Also the website displays the latest reports online and it is possible to comment on the reports. So another option to add additional information.
  • Because reports are kept in “My Reports” it is easy to post follow-up comments.

Whilst I like the idea of doing it all from the side of the road I do have some niggles with this application:

  1. All reports are annoymous. This makes it difficult for any clarification information to be sought by the relevant authority;
  2. A copy of the report to your own email address would be handy;
  3. No sharing of reports on Twitter etc;

On the positive side it allows for reporting on the ground, it allows for a photo to be easily added to the report and it allows for the flag in the map to be moved to be a more accurate indicator of the hazard location and least but not last it is free.

All up a good, but not brilliant app for smartphone users.  It is currently my go to phone app for reporting hazards.

PEOPLE HAZARDS

Crashes where you are hurt or it involves someone else should always be reported to the Police. You can do this in person at a Police station or you can do it online via the Online Crash Reporting Facility. Other road incidents should be reported to the Police again either in person or via their online reporting Traffic Complaint Form.

Online Crash Reporting Facility

The Online Crash Reporting Facility is a joint initiative of the Western Australian Police and the Insurance Commission of Western Australia and by using it you will have complied with the legal requirements for an owner or driver to report a property damage crash to WA Police and for crashes involving injury you will have complied with the legal requirements for an owner or driver to report personal injury crashes to the Insurance Commission of WA and WA Police.

Traffic Complaint Form

The Western Australian Police Traffic Complaint Form allows you to report incidents where no crash is involved, At a minimum, details of your incident are in recorded in the Police Intelligence Database to identify areas of concerns, if you are lucky your incident might result in a phone call to the offender and if you have witnesses (or video – this is where the likes of my Contour HD1080P comes into play) you should expect a follow-up from the Police and at least a warning issued to the other party if not prosecution.

The process is a two stage one. First you have to enter your email address to have a link sent to you to actually access the reporting form. Once the report is completed and submitted  you will receive an automated email providing a copy of your report and its Traffic Complaint Form number.  This will be followed up with another email indicating what is going to be happening. IF nothing further is likely, the wording of the follow-up will be something along these lines:

Thank you for your Traffic Complaint Report received on 28/05/09.

The information you provided will be forwarded to the Western Australia Police Traffic Intelligence Services.

Your Report will be investigated and if further assistance is required you may be contacted by Police. In addition the information you provided will be used to target offenders and/or ‘hot spots’

My experience is that without either witness and/or video this is the standard response.  Witness and/or video is required for more action.  However not all is lost as if incidents are reported and hot spots identified Police resources can be better utilised. I have noticed for example more patrols on the roads where I have encountered numerous incidents following regular reporting of same.

My suggestion is also when completing the form, in the detail section, that you adopt the Police statement form of reporting, i.e., specific to the point paragraphs which are numbered. I also make it clear that I have a video of the incident available on DVD along with a prepared statement. A statement which is laid out in the standard Police statement format.  This reduces the workload for the Police and encourages them to take further action.

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