Human progress has been fueled by information. The more we know as a species, the better we do. As we continue to collect data about our minds, bodies, and the natural world around us, lifespans rise and standards of living increase. Not surprisingly, better data and more information has also been pivotal in making our modern world safe. When we know things about the nature of accidents, we can design our world to minimize them. This universal truth could pave the way to significantly increased safety for cyclists, if we actually make it a priority to collect the data.
Almost two cyclists die every day due to collisions with motor vehicles, and with the number of bicycle commuters on the rise (up over 60 percent in the last decade), the number of accidents and fatalities is poised to go up. Even so, police departments use outdated reporting methods for bicycle collisions, and collecting usable information from the scant data has proven difficult. One researcher reports that “if officers reported more detailed information about such collisions, that data could be used to design streets and intersections that would be significantly safer for everyone.”
A study on the matter found that changes wouldn’t be hard or expensive to implement, and could be as simple as changing the template that police use to record crashes. Researchers believe better data afforded by better forms and questions asked could lead to safer designs for roadways, motor vehicles, and bicycles. If we know how, where, and why most collisions occur, we could install features designed to minimize risk. Changes could include safer designated bike lanes, signal lights on vehicles designed specifically with cyclists in mind, or improvements increasing visibility of bikes and cycling apparel.
These changes are particularly important in states with high populations and several urban areas. States with this kind of population density, like California, Florida, Texas, New York, Illinois and Michigan, carry the brunt of cyclist fatalities after vehicle collisions. In fact, in 2011 and 2012, states like this and the urban areas inside them actually saw an increase in cyclist fatalities, with “69% of 2012 deaths occurr[ing] in urban areas.” A third of those fatal accidents happened at intersections.
Biking is a heart friendly and environmentally responsible form of transportation and recreation. As the push to live clean and be green continues, more and more people will likely commute via bicycle. With that in mind, we must capitalize on available technology to collect better data and make our world safer.