Bike to Work Day: Pick the Safest Route with Bike Accident Tracker


This Thursday, May 12, is the 17th annual Bike to Work Day! I got my bike tuned up, and I will be eagerly joining the thousands of bike commuters. Feels good to save the planet (and get in shape). Although it's just one day, the positive impacts are long-term. Every year participation in this event, and bicycle ridership in San Francisco as whole, continues to grow (up 60% since 2006). If you can ride your bike to work one day, why can't you do it every day - to the grocery store, to school, and to just about anywhere in our beautiful city? But I get drivers: once your dependent your car, it's incredibly difficult to kick the habit and use alternate modes of transportation. Let's face it: driving a car is usually more convenient, sometimes cheaper and seems safer. I myself am a former car addict. And since moving to SF, I've wanted to make biking a part of my every day routine. 

How safe is San Francisco for bicyclists? After the scouring the Internet (the SFMTA website is more or less useless), I stumbled upon the Bay Citizen's Bike Accident Tracker. Using raw data from SFPD, the Bay Citizen mapped and analyzed every bike accident reported to the police over the past 2 years. The fascinating new app provides information on the leading causes of accidents as well as who was at fault (bicyclist vs. motorists vs. pedestrian). Speeding, by both bikers and drivers alike, significantly contributed to the statistics. Many accidents were also caused by drivers failing to signal and opening the car door into the path of unsuspecting bicyclists (a buddy of mine got doored, flew threw the car door window and miraculously walked away with barely a scratch - many are not so lucky). The bottom line: the 8% rise in bike accidents has outpaced the 3% growth in ridership over the past year, despite the construction of additional bike lanes, medians and other street safety measures. Furthermore, the Bike Accident Tracker is awesome because it depicts and breaks down patterns by neighborhood (the Mission, for instance, has the highest number of accidents, twice as many as FiDi - it's hard to skid-stop your fixie while chowing a burrito) and draws attention to accident "hotspots" - particularly dangerous intersections and problematic boulevards (e.g. Geary and Van Ness). 
User-generated government in action. Despite how cool this interactive app is, many bike accidents go unreported. Police officers often refuse to write up an accident report if the cyclist isn't seriously injured (and most at-fault drivers get off the hook). In an effort to provide residents and city government a better idea of where and why accidents happen, cyclists and motorists can report accidents directly to the Bay Citizen. User-submitted reports are reviewed and put up on the map (and clearly distinguished from SFPD data). This app has enormous potential to better inform the SFMTA about where and what are the priorities for making SF streets safer. Fortunately the SF Bike Plan is being implemented with 34 new miles of bike lanes on their way, but many of the hotspots the Bay Citizen identified are not included in the plan. Market, for one thing - the most traveled street by bikers, has 7 hotspots, but the necessary improvements for the street are severely lacking in the plan. Gov 2.0 resources like the Bike Accident Tracker need to be embraced, promoted and taken into serious consideration by SFGov and SFMTA.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137