Home
Aussie researcher wins award for research into road design

A researcher from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) in Australia has won an award for a research paper concluding that changes to road design could dramatically increase the safety of cyclists.

With his study: 'Investigating The Factors Influencing Cyclist Behaviour And Awareness: An On-Road Study Of Cyclist Situation Awareness’, Professor Paul Salmon won a $1,000 award at the Australasian Road Safety Conference.

Dr Salmon and his team from USC were investigating how road system design can support safe interactions between drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians

Through their research, the team noted that while cyclists were acutely aware of the threat other vehicles posed to their own safety, they weren’t always aware of where the danger might come from. The heightened awareness that cyclists must show to be aware of hazards on the road can lead to highly unpredictable behaviour.

It was this unpredictability that the research team identified as the key danger to cyclists. To address the issue, the team suggested taking decision making opportunities out of the hands of the cyclists.

The team also observed that poorly designed junctions as well as poor driver appreciation of cyclist behaviour contributed to the dangers that cyclists face.

The research is based on the behaviour of a sample group of 20 cyclists as their decisions and reasonings were monitored over a 15 km route.

Participants were equipped with a front and rear camera, which allowed the researches to assess the cyclists’ awareness of the cars around them. They were also fitted with a microphone so that their vocalised decisions could be recorded.

It was not the team from USC’s remit to instigate any actual changes to the law, or to road design. They did however, have a sequence of recommendations as well as further research that they think should be undertaken.

The team believe that road design should be amended to remove the threats of parked cars and other hazardous road furniture. They also believe that constraining cyclist behaviour through the use of cycle lanes is the safest option for road sharing.

Intersections and junctions should be redesigned to trigger cyclist behaviours, rather than leaving decision making up to the individual judgement of the cyclist. They recommended removing the decision making process entirely, or at least moving it to an earlier point in the approach.

Finally, the team believe that drivers need a better education on what kind of behaviour to expect from cyclists.

In regards to the next step in road system design research, the team advised a couple of areas for further study. A deeper analysis of near miss events between cars and cyclists was their first recommendation, followed by a study on specific interactions between drivers and cyclists.

Elliot joined team road.cc bright eyed, bushy tailed, and straight out of university.

Raised in front of cathode ray tube screens bearing the images of Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong, Elliot's always had cycling in his veins.
His balance was found on a Y-framed mountain bike around South London suburbs in the 90s, while his first taste of freedom came when he claimed his father's Giant hybrid as his own at age 16.

When Elliot's not writing for road.cc two wheels are still his favoured mode of transport; these days over the undulating streets of Madrid.

14 comments

Avatar
P3t3 [260 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Is this research from the Australian university of stating the bleeding obvious? I could have told you that without a research program...

Avatar
jarredscycling [456 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Yeah this does seem a bit more like common sense and a lot less like a scientific research study

Avatar
badback [302 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Love the name of the University. Sounds like the right place for getting a grant for this kind of research.

Avatar
gazza_d [461 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

hey, nice work if you can get it!

Wonder if I can get a research gig at the "university of the sunshine coast" to see if round wheels work better than square ones

Avatar
Cranky Acid [40 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

From a series entitled 'No shit Sherlock'

Avatar
earth [293 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Its true. Most of the roads in cities of this country stem from medieval times. Naturally there was no thought to future uses of the roads.

Avatar
Guyz2010 [304 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

"Is this research from the Australian university of stating the bleeding obvious? I could have told you that without a research program..."

Why didn't you then. Could have one yourself a AU$1000.

Seriously, I believe cyclists create a few of their own problems in reality. Certainly in the UK they have been abandoned for 40 or so years with road designers thinking they know what cyclist need. Its a bit like the computer programmer giving someone a programme thinking its suitable for the end user in reality they no little of the requirements and needs of the user so end up constantly upgrading.
I would say ALL road designers MUST spend a period of time with say the Sustrans or British cysling or the CTC or similar AND then cycle to work for 3 months. Only then they would they understand the needs of a cyclist.

Avatar
WolfieSmith [1323 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

... They don't see the need. Motor transport is what they design for not cycling. They'll only consider cycling if made to. Make friends with councillors. It's the key.

Avatar
bambergbike [89 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I live near a crossroads where the behaviour of cyclists has been "constrained" by engineers who thought they knew where cyclists needed to go. Unfortunately, they seem to have assumed that no cyclists live on the hill where I and quite a few other cyclists live. Three of the four roads that meet at this junction have parallel cycle paths. The fourth road doesn't have one. I need to turn into this fourth road very regularly to get home, but the entire junction has been designed so that cyclists cannot leave the cycle path network and join this road without dismounting and using pedestrian crossings. So I have no legal way to get home on my bike unless I use the roads rather than the cycle paths to approach or leave this junction. So that's what I do. It saves me dismounting, crossing as a pedestrian, remounting and then doing a standing start on a slope. I'm pretty sure my behaviour is predictable for motorists when they see me in front of them before we reach the junction and they start concentrating on multiple traffic streams. I'm in the correct lane, I'm ready to heed the same traffic signals as they are, I'm signalling my intentions and everybody knows what's going to happen. In fact, I think I'm WAY more predictable than a lot of the other cyclists I see at this junction - plenty of cyclists revert to "wheeled pedestrian" mode on the junction arm that has no cycle paths, so it's hard to know what they are going to do: will they mount a footpath, roll across a pedestrian crossing on green and then a second one on red, or will they skip the RLJ at a crossing they aren't supposed to use anyway and stay on the footpath and ride up the hill on the narrow footpath on the wrong side of the road? Hard to tell.

You won't get predictable cycling if you build segregated infrastructure that isn't seamlessly integrated with non-segregated infrastructure where it needs to be. Constraining cyclists behaviour doesn't work when it constrains their ability to make journeys efficently for no good reason. People just find their own hopelessly unpredictable workarounds, some more or less legal and others illegal, and continue to follow their desire lines.

Avatar
Ush [693 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Quote:

To address the issue, the team suggested taking decision making opportunities out of the hands of the cyclists.

Simples. No bicycles on the road.

I have an award for these turds too.

Avatar
A V Lowe [575 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Pope a Catholic - wow what news!

Avatar
Chuck [546 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

It's easy to knock this kind of thing but if it can be part of a body of research with some sort of rigorous approach behind it then it's all to the good. Evidence is always better than anecdote for influencing policy.

Avatar
Bez [594 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

+1 to Chuck. Coming into an argument with evidence is always better.

Lots of things that seem obvious turn out to be nonsense, because people think "oh, it's obvious" and then stop thinking about it, and miss things.

And in any case, there's plenty of established opinion that's stacked against this. Franklin's advice, for a start (which is well bought-into by many planners/engineers), centres around educating cyclists to make decisions rather than building infrastructure to reduce their decision-making load.

If evidence breaks down received wisdom and helps steer us to better, safer infrastructure then where's the problem?

Avatar
vbvb [597 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

-1 to chuck, because the science trumps anecdote argument is not always correct - it was used to keep us smoking for an extra couple of decades until we were reeeeaaaaaally sure about the harm of smoking. And this cycling study's evidence is actually just anecdote dressed up, and with a tiny tiny sample too, 20 cyclists. Great to see some studies on cycling but don't be dazzled by a post doc per se - it's just a guy who needs a project and enjoys cycling.