Bike safety in Germany

I worked on this project with together with a researcher and a developer.

1. Introduction

How can seeing the city in new light lead to changes in personal, professional, or political decision-making?

On this basis, we dealt with a set of data from the Police of Hamburg that contains all traffic accidents between 2012 and 2016. We have looked at the question of how to determine the status of road safety, which data is used and how to use this basis to make decisions on adapting the infrastructure. We have taken a critical look at the current method of collecting data in order to improve the bicycle infrastructure and have found that a solid data base actually does not exist and that the current strategy is merely „driving on sight“. For this reason, we have developed an idea of how to improve this infrastructure planning by crowdsourcing data and smartly using maps in the form of a navigation app for mobile phones.

Genesis of the Idea

The accident data was provided to us without context. There was no particular intention or ambition to steer our work in any direction or to give us a question/task at hand.

Therefore, we have studied the data set exploratively in a first approach to develop a research question. In order to be able to work with the data, we have in a first step qualitatively improved the data (police codes translated into everyday language) and programmed a tool to evaluate and to set them in context with each other.

The research question

The questions that are exciting for us are located on two levels. On the one hand, we have asked ourselves the question of whether the accident data available to us from the Police of Hamburg actually provide a solid basis for answering questions about road safety and for ensuring the basis for innovative infrastructure planning geared to people's needs, and if not, what is the basis and how can it be created?

“Is there a way to empower the citizens of Hamburg to transform their City through the power of crowdsourced Data and mapping from a car dominated “metropolis of speeding” to a safe and sustainable Cycling City?”

2. Concept/Approach

At first, we researched the development of Hamburgs accidents through the years 2012 to 2016. For this step we used webGL and OpenRefine to build applications for exploring different attributes and compare them. In this analysis there were no interesting directions to follow. As we researched and experimented with the data, we thought a lot, what shall be our final income and what direction we have to take according to it.

To get the meta information and story behind the data we contacted Claus Hesseling at the beginning of the project to find out, how came Claus to this data and what were his interests behind. What is his opinion, what are the “peaks” of the data: most interesting use cases and scenarios. We made a brief Skype-talk together to discuss all these. We also saw other project - infographics made by other student based on this data. Conclusion of this workshop was that we try to find out several interesting crossings, where are the most accidents happening and to analyse: why, who was there, which transport and by which circumstances. To make schematic sketches of those crossings and maybe go to Hamburg and shot the videos on these crossings to describe quickly the atmosphere there. Maybe we could prepare a data journalism article in collaboration with Claus, with interactive representation of bicycling situation in Hamburg, for both cyclists and government.

Based on the data we have we extracted 5 most bad crossings and started to research on these: pictures, articles, what bicycling effects had they. How where they changed/developed by the city; which road works were provided. We checked the data in comparison to this found circumstances. Unfortunately, this information has not showed a lot of changes/interesting data for us to work on. 

We analysed what we could do. Shall we mark these crossings and try to obtain them in the bicycle routes? Should we propose the most safe routes based in this information from years of bicycling in Hamburg. Should we prepare special routes for people with children? What is the best way to present this information? We researched other solutions with similar topics. What is done so far and what is not. In Berlin cyclists have an opportunity to write down the accidents or problematic spaces for cyclists.

3. Design/Implementation

After developing some intermediate steps and researching the opportunities and solutions for our data, we came up to the tool to illustrate the data and it’s impact is the website

To make cycling in Hamburg permanently safe and to compensate for the deficiencies of current infrastructure planning, reliable information about the routes you take in your city by bicycle is required. We need to know where the many accidents and near-accidents that do not appear in the official statistics occur and we need to know where the cyclists feel safe and enjoy cycling, so that those who prefer to take their car now are motivated to switch to cycling.

We have developed a navigation device for you that brings you to your destination quickly, reliably and most of all safely and can support you individually on your tour, because it knows exactly how fast you have to travel to get through the city with a green wave. At the same time, you anonymously transmit via GPS which routes you drive and then you can evaluate your tours according to the driving experience.

And if it should happen that you get into an accident or an almost-accident and you, like most people, decide not to call the police because it's not worth the effort, you don't have time or feel that it wouldn't work anyway, then you can write it down in the app, so that this dangerous situation will not remain unnoticed, so that a cyclist does not have to get into this situation again, because the city is aware of the problems of its cyclists, can adapt the infrastructure for you and can see in real time whether the infrastructure adjustments are accepted positively or where it need to be improved again.