Step 1 of improving bicycle safety: gather data better!

The month of August is the unofficial, “Blog about Road/Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety!” month here at IP BMJ Blog. Part of that is due to the August 2015 issue of Injury Prevention, which features several publications regarding the aforementioned topics.

One of them being this paper by Lusk, Asgarazdeh, and Farvid, looking at how bicycle-crash-scene data is being reported and how to improve our databases for the greater purpose of improving the safety of roadways and vehicles.

Lusk, Asgarazdeh, and Farvid report that, although police in the United States have been reporting bicycle crashes since bicycle use became popular in the 1890s, the reporting templates and coding practices have room for improvement. For example, the current police templates only have diagrams of two cars – no bikes. Lusk and her colleagues want police reporting mechanisms to include pictures of a bike. Another example, there are only two ways to code a bicycle crash – (1) “pedal cyclist” vs. motor cyclist and (2) whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet or not. Lusk and her colleagues purport that a template and reporting mechanism which includes the side of the bicycle that was impacted, whether the crash was caused by an open car door, or whether a cyclist was riding in the bike lane could help to improve future plans for the built environment (i.e., less parallel parked cards) and car designs (i.e., sliding car doors) will have a profound effect on how we view future bicycle/road safety endeavors.

Who would’ve ever thought that improving the way we report bicycle crashes could potentially help make bicycling safer and more prevalent?(Shhh… that’s a rhetorical question.)