As we wrote last week, the Bay Citizen news operation has developed a map of San Francisco bicycle accidents, complete with information on bicycle ridership, accident hot spots, and suggested improvements. But San Francisco is not the only city beefing up its bicycle accident statistics. In a unanimous decision this week, the New York City Council voted to collect monthly bicycle accident data in a resource searchable online. It’s a great idea, and raises the question of whether the SFPD should follow suit.
Like the Bay Citizen’s map, the NYPD bicycle accident information will be searchable by accident type and intersection location. “Right now, New Yorkers are really in the dark about what the NYPD is writing traffic tickets for and what numbers and what locations, and whether or not that enforcement activity is directly related to the injuries and fatalities occurring on our streets,” said transportation advocate Paul Steely White. The new database could change that.
While it’s difficult to deny the impressive nature of the San Francisco infographic, some have criticized it as unscientific and quick to jump to conclusions. “Often, their decisions are suspect,” wrote Matt Baume of SFWeekly, referring to the fact that the data reports that a surprising fifty percent of bicycle accidents were primarily the fault of cyclists, not cars. Bicycle laws are less concrete than vehicle laws, since without the protection of a metal frame, bicyclists must veer to the left or the right to dodge unexpected obstacles. This doesn’t necessarily mean they broke the law and caused a car accident.
So should the SFPD thank the Bay Citizen for getting the ball rolling and take it from here? One major benefit would be that the resource would then include information on non-accident bicycle and pedestrian police tickets. But it would also increase costs for an already cash strapped city in a hugely cash strapped state. So since they’re doing a great job anyway, and they don’t seem to mind (publicity has been mostly glowing), I think it’s fair to assume that bicycle accident infographic duties will stick with the Bay Citizen.
Photo credit: Simon Davison