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

America Could Have Been Building Protected Bike Lanes for the Last 40 Years

|
Salt Lake City is on track to implement the nation’s first “protected intersection” — a Dutch-inspired design to minimize conflicts between cyclists and drivers at crossings. For American cities, this treatment feels like the cutting edge, but a look back at the history of bike planning in the United States reveals that even here, this idea is far from new. In fact, […]

Boston to Expand Hubway Bike-Share After Brilliant First Season

|
They’ve logged more than 140,000 rides over just four months. And now Boston’s brand new Hubway bike sharing system is packing it in for the cold New England winter. But when it returns in the spring, it will be expanding, adding stations in Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline. In total, the barely four-month-old bike sharing system […]