Project Velograph needs volunteers

21 Nov 22 | By pp-admin

Ever felt that drivers were coming way too close while you were riding on the road? Maybe they were!  

In 2019, the University of Adelaide completed a pilot project to evaluate how compliant drivers are with the minimum passing distance rules from riders and found that Canberrans were quite good. 

Now the Velograph Project research team has secured more funding from the ACT Road Safety Fund and they are keen to expand their data set, with the help of some Canberra volunteers. 

The data is collected by a device which features two lidar distance sensors that detect when a car or other vehicle passes the bike within 3 metres. One sensor is installed under the saddle and the other near the handlebar. The sensors detect if a vehicle is passing the cyclist by noticing that the rear sensor is triggered first, followed by the front one. The data is then recorded and can be uploaded onto an app via a USB connection.  

See what the sensors ‘see’ in this video taken with cameras positioned where the sensors are pointing

As well as the distance of passing vehicles, the data includes GPS coordinates, which in time will allow researchers to create a map of where the problem areas may be. 

“There are some road designs that make it harder for drivers to respect the mandatory distance from bikes” says Pedal Power volunteer Mike Watson. He has been testing the sensors for a few weeks and has noticed that overall Canberra drivers are doing the right thing, but this is difficult to do in some spots. 

This observation is consistent with what researchers found in the 2019 study. Their data showed that the degree of non-compliance with the minimum passing distance rule varied considerably with road characteristics and location. 

Non-compliance on roads zoned 60 km/h or less was 2.7% and the average passing distance was 1.85 metres (the rule states it should be at least 1m). On roads zoned greater than 60 km/h, non-compliance was 11.2% and the average passing distance was 1.97 metres (the rules mandates at least 1.5m).  

In the coming weeks, researchers Jamie Mackenzie and Giulio Ponte from the University of Adelaide will send 10 Velograph devices to Pedal Power to be issued to a new group of volunteers every 4 weeks. 

“This is an important project” says Pedal Power Executive Director Simon Copland “as the data collected will be able to inform Pedal Power’s advocacy effort, by demonstrating which roads need improved design to maximise rider safety”. 

The ideal volunteers will be commuters who mostly ride on roads, rather than on bike paths. So please let us know if you are interested and stay tuned for updates. 

The research team also secured some Federal funding which will bring this study to Adelaide and Melbourne as well.