The Near Miss Project

Cycling is currently a hotly debated political and policy issue, especially in relation to safety. While research has studied serious injuries and deaths, this project targets a more common, yet under-researched phenomenon: the ‘ordinary’ experience of near misses and other non-injury incidents (from incivilities and low-level harassment to SMIDSY: ‘sorry mate, I didn’t see you’).

Near miss and related incidents are common, according to a pioneering study in Oxford in the early 1990s. More recent work in Middlesex suggests close passes (under 50cm) may happen with predictable regularity for commuting cyclists, while an Australian study highlights experiences of deliberate abuse and harassment.

Yet apart from this work – referenced below – there remains little research into non-injury incidents. We don’t know, for example, how often they happen to UK cyclists, and how this varies.

This is a substantial missed opportunity, both to improve people’s experiences of cycling, and to use our knowledge of near misses to prevent injuries. The latter is commonplace in other areas of transport such as rail and air but near-absent for cycling.

This project researches, analyses and documents cycling near misses, and contribute to training drivers and transport professionals. It will further enable the cycling public to discuss experiences of near misses and related incidents, the effect that these have had, and their views about preventing such incidents.

 For more information, please email Dr. Rachel Aldred.

Areas of work

1) The One Day Diary. For 2 weeks from 20th October 2014, cyclists in the UK were asked to record trips made during a day’s cycling and if they experienced any incidents. If incidents did happen, the survey gathered information about what happened during the incident, who was involved, what the outcome was, and the emotional impacts of the incident. The data is being used to draw some conclusions about how frequent such events are, which are the most common types, any variations (e.g. different parts of the country) and how we might prevent these and more serious incidents. The diary is being repeated in October 2015 to explore any changes and in preparation for conducting the survey in different cities and countries.
The One Day Diary has been approved by the University of Westminster’s ABE Faculty Research Ethics Committee. Initially, participants were asked to register their names, email addresses, and select their nominated day, via the link on this website. This personal information is stored securely and will only be used to send respondents an email containing more information and a unique survey link in advance of their nominated day. Only the lead researcher will have access to the complete One Day Diary data, which will be used to create a fully anonymised dataset for analysis.

2) Website. We’ve used the website to gather material and discuss different perspectives on near miss incidents, including using a blog with guest posts. An episode of The Bike Show will publicise this, discuss the topic and emerging findings, and encourage engagement.

3) We are creating handouts (with web versions) about near misses, including stories, statistics and images. Handouts will be offered to police services, driver training organisations and transport organisations. People will be invited to contribute to the website and to make use of and adapt our materials.

4) We have organised one public event to showcase the project and its findings, including presentations of related work. Interviews with presenters will be edited into an audiocast to be placed on the project website. Further public events will follow and many other presentations are being made to stakeholders and the public about the project.

References

Heesch, K.C., Sahlqvist, S. and Garrard, J. 2011 Cyclists’ experiences of harassment from motorists: Findings from a survey of cyclists in Queensland, Australia, Preventive Medicine 53(6) pp. 417–420

Joshi , M.S., Senior, V. and Smith, G.P. 2001 A diary study of the risk perceptions of road users, Health, Risk and Society, 3:3, 261-279

Walker, I., Garrard, I. and Jowitt, F., 2014. The influence of a bicycle commuter’s appearance on drivers’ overtaking proximities: an on-road test of bicyclist stereotypes, high-visibility clothing and safety aids in the United Kingdom. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 64, pp. 69-77