A couple of days ago (presumably on a slow news day), the Herald Sun ran an article stating that the Police were calling for a ban on cyclists using Heidelberg-Kinglake Road in Victoria ‘for their own safety’.
“It’s the most dangerous road to ride on”
“I would love to see a ban on cyclists going up that stretch of the road as my concern is for their safety.”
“A car might hit them and the car driver is going to be fine, but the cyclist is going to be badly hurt or pushed off the embankment.”Sergeant Lindsay Dixon (Diamond Creek)
I was pretty sure that information on accidents would be available online, and since my day job is mapping, I thought I would see just how dangerous this section of road was.
Firstly I hit up data.vic.gov.au for crash statistics, and was lucky to find a data extract covering January 1st 2006 to June 30th 2013. A quick skim through the download showed it to be a collection of CSV files that were keyed to a unique ID for each accident – easy to join as needed using GIS. The biggest issue with displaying the crash locations was trying to work out the coordinate system so I could display it with some underlying roads. The coordinate tags are labelled amg_x and amg_y so I was looking at the various Australian Map Grid options, but none of those were close. Finally I came across a hint that I was looking for ‘Pseudo-AMG’ so that gave me some routes to search along.
Fortunately, Nyall Dawson had run into the same problem last year and posted the proj4 string which I could use to create a custom Coordinate Reference System in QGIS.
+proj=tmerc +lat_0=0 +lon_0=145 +k=1 +x_0=500000 +y_0=10000000 +ellps=WGS84
+towgs84=-117.808,-51.536,137.784,0.303,0.446,0.234,-0.29 +units=m +no_defs
If you have access to ArcGIS you can also create your own custom coordinate system using the following data:
Central Meridian: 145 E
Central Scale Fact: 1
False Easting: 500,000 m
False Northing: 10,000,000 m
Geodetic Datum: AGD66
Having a custom coordinate system really sucks in general; there is rarely any need for one. However, I can see the reason here: most, if not all the standard Australian systems have a boundary that goes right through the middle of Melbourne.
By comparison, the basemap was easy; I’d previously downloaded an OSM file covering all of Australia, so it was just case of clipping out with the bit that I wanted with the command line and styling it up. It comes in in WGS84 (Lat-Long) so its easy to manipulate.
Ian$ ogr2ogr -f "SQLite" -dsco SPATIALITE="YES" -spat 145.07034302 -37.71098578 145.48095703 -37.47921744 Kinglake_OSM.sqlite australia-latest.osm.pbf -progress
First up, we have the data for all non-bicycle accidents on Heidelberg-Kinglake Road between Kinglake and St Andrews.
Second, we have the data for all bicycle accidents over the same time period1.
The statistics from VicRoads show that on this section of road, the ratio of injurious motor vehicles accidents to that of cyclists is approximately 25:1, far from ‘the most dangerous road’ as claimed.
Following the devastating fires of 7th February 2009 (Black Saturday), cyclists were some of the first people coming back, buying coffee and helping support the community. A good cafe is something cyclists look for, willing to ride out of their way for a favourite pre or post ride coffee every week. A hoard of hungry riders make a good and welcoming cafe a lot of money before most people are even out of bed at the weekend while an unwelcoming one will soon fine itself ‘blacklisted’ by cyclists. A sudden ban on that road will immediately cut down on the number of riders in the area, and much less income for the cafes.
‘Ban cyclists for their own safety’ seems to have currently replaced the constant bleating for registration and insurance, but it is no less flawed and, as far as I’m concerned, a reasonable indication that nothing said by that person is worthy of consideration.