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Could better bike accident reports lead to safer roads?

The number of people across the country who commute via bicycle has grown by more than 60 percent in the last few years. As we discussed in our blog post on Tuesday, San Diego's mayor hopes to increase the number of bike commuters even further by 2020. Although biking has numerous benefits for both individuals and communities, one major drawback is safety.

Most bikers in California ride in the street. The roads, however, are built for cars and other motor vehicles. Because motorists are still learning how to share the road with bicyclists, accidents are common. Fortunately, one researcher from Harvard sees opportunity for improvement after a recent study.

The Harvard study found major problems with the way bike accidents are reported. Not only are reporting methods outdated given the technology that is available today, but the reports often lack essential information about the crash itself. This scenario has left us with little valuable data about bicycle accident trends throughout the country.

Having good data is crucial for creating an environment that is safe for both bikers and drivers. Understanding the most common causes of bike accidents can help municipalities create infrastructure that supports everyone who uses the road, such as protected bike lanes. It could even help car manufactures make adjustments to vehicles to improve safety -- such as adding a signal light that lets a biker know when a parked car's door is about to open.

To help police departments across the country collect better data, researchers created a new template for recording bike accidents. The template gives responding officers the ability to name the road condition (such as whether there was a painted or protected bike lane), which parts of each vehicle collided, and a description of what caused the crash.

Better understanding the circumstances surrounding bike accidents across the country seems like a promising way to begin creating safer conditions for everyone on the road. It will be interesting to see if police departments in California consider using the new template.

Source: CityLab, "How Better Data on Bike Crashes Could Lead to Safer Streets for All," Sarah Goodyear, April 2, 2015

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