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Techno Crashing

By David Hoffman

We all know people who have been involved in crashes. We read about them in the paper, we hear about it from other cyclists; sometimes we see it happen. But how many crashes occur in your area over time? And where are you most likely to be involved in a crash? Sure – we all know where the dangerous intersections are located, but where is the data to back this up? How about the best route to get from one place to another on your bike? Good questions – ones that have been very hard to answer for a variety of reasons until relatively recently. Finally, technology is able to provide the raw data and some answers to these questions.

Report This!
For years, advocates have struggled to get a handle on the real number of crashes and danger zones within a city. Up until fairly recently, most data is collected by getting reports from the police or transportation agencies and compiling the results yourself. This is both tedious, often incomplete (read: many agencies are notoriously under-informed about bicycle-related crashes and their causes), and almost always a couple of years out of date.

Currently, crash data is collected and then fed on a regular basis into state and federal reporting systems. In bicycle and pedestrian related crashes only an estimated ten percent are actually reported. The other ninety percent may represent less serious crashes where there is little or no injury, but the difference may be literally inches. The current data collection doesn’t even take in to account “close calls.”

Crashing Bad.
Technology Good.

Question: What do you get when you mix Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), online mapping services such as Google, Yahoo, and MapQuest, and bike geeks (usually the commute-to-work-by-bike type)?

Answer: An online, publicly viewable and editable database of all things bicycle, including crashes, injuries, fatalities, close calls, bike parking locations, bike shops, bike-friendly businesses… well, you get the idea.