Boston Bike Report Wrongly Blamed Cyclists for Most Collisions

Last month, the city of Boston released a bike safety report, and it was something of a disaster.

Network blog Boston Streets explains the data was misinterpreted by the city’s bike director, and the report falsely claimed cyclists were responsible for most of the collisions in which they were involved:

Last month the Boston Globe falsely reported that a majority of collisions involving cyclists were caused by red-light running. That turned out to be incorrect. The top reason was "driver did not see cyclist." Image: ##http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/downtown/2011/05/eastern_mass_gets_new_cycling.html## Boston.com##

Reports immediately focused on an unbelievable finding: cyclists running red lights were the most common cause of crashes in Boston. No doubt guilt-ridden drivers were relieved to learn that scofflaw cyclists were the problem all along.

Within a few hours, however, reporters were correcting their stories. The most common behavior actually cited in bicycle crashes was the ambiguous “Driver did not see bicyclist,” whatever that means.

So what happened? The Boston Cyclist Safety Report combines two crash data research efforts: one summarizing police reports and one revealing EMS data. These studies make up the second and third chapters, respectively, of the Report. Chapter 1 is essentially an executive report written by the city’s Bicycle Director, Nicole Freedman.

Freedman is responsible for erroneously reporting that red-light running was the most common crash contributor, despite that the claim is contradicted within the same report. And despite the fact that it flies in the face of every other bicycle safety study. Transportation professionals are well aware that right-hook crashes and “doorings” are far and away the most common bicycle crash types. How our city’s Bike Director could have overlooked this is truly puzzling.

Regardless of the gaffe, the report did convey some valuable information. Too many people are getting killed and injured on bikes in Boston, and they’re getting hurt most often in a handful of places. However, data from police and other primary sources is often vague and inadequate. “’Driver did not see bicyclist’ does not provide useful insight,” said Boston Streets.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Peninsula Transportation finds that taxpayers in Palo Alto, California, aren’t fond of the idea of chipping in for parking structures. PA Walks and Bikes says Pennsylvania has for the first time added a dedicated fund for walking and biking to the transportation bill. And Transit Miami reports that planners in Fort Lauderdale are leaving bike and pedestrian safety to a vote by neighborhood residents.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Oregon Study Finds 94 Percent of Cyclists Stop at Red Lights

|
Contrary to lawless cyclist mythos, a study finds that nearly all cyclists in four Oregon cities stop for red lights. Meanwhile, according to Michael Andersen at Bike Portland, unrelated research suggests that “speeding in a car on local streets is at least six times more common than running a red light on a bike.” Portland State University […]

What Happened When a Newspaper Became an Advocate for Bicyclists

|
In too many cities, newspaper coverage of bicycling has stoked some of the darker aspects of human nature. Opinion pieces about bike lanes tend to cater to the reactionary opposition, goading the trolls of the comments section, where casual death threats are standard fare. But a newspaper in South Florida has taken a very different approach over […]

Bike Boxes Stoke Motorist Resentment in Seattle

|
Changes to the street often have a way of irritating people who were accustomed to the way things used to be, but sometimes it’s surprising how seemingly minor changes can set off an angry response. In Seattle, the city’s installation of bike boxes — painted street markings that let cyclists advance to the front of […]