Researchers behind a new interactive online map that tracks cycling crash hotspots and near-misses are anticipating the project will soon spread to cities across the world.
Bike Maps (bikemaps.org) has already drawn 9,500 online visitors and reports of 466 cycling incidents in its first month of operation, said University of Victoria associate professor Trisalyn Nelson, who created the project with a small team in the Spatial Pattern Analysis and Research geography lab.
“We already have people entering data from nine different countries without any promotion,” Nelson said. “This is the launch site.”
The idea started with Nelson, who commutes by bike to UVic. Her kids, three and six years old, are following suit as little commuters of their own, which inspired Nelson to take cycling safety analysis to the next level.
“I originally thought about a site where you could rant about a near-miss and community cycling hazards, but that wasn’t enough. The planning community wants to increase ridership, and safety is a No. 1 concern,” she said.
Bike Map’s main feature is collecting reports of cycling-involved crashes, fusing data from ICBC, the Victoria Police Department and the public, who are invited to submit their own experiences. Researchers are keeping the emphasis on Greater Victoria for now.
“What we’re seeing is there are hotspots of bike incidents around the city that wouldn’t have shown up using strictly ICBC data because they’re not vehicle-related and therefore don’t result in claims,” Nelson said.
As of last week, Bike Maps’ four categories included 115 collisions, 175 near misses, 131 hazards and 45 bike thefts. Hazards refer to potholes, narrow intersections or other road dangers while near-misses and collisions include those with another bike or pedestrian.
Users can register their riding area and receive tailored monthly updates. A smart phone app is scheduled for the spring, and cyclists will be able to use it in real time.
“You would get real time alerts with the phone, you could even change your route based on them,” Nelson said.
Building the site was tasked to fourth-year undergraduate Taylor Denouden, who spent the summer putting in the work. Now that Bike Maps is live, SPAR masters student Ben Jestico is continuing his graduate work to study predictors of cycling safety. A fourth member, Karen Laberee, is in charge of publicity. Nelson says the eventual trove of cycling data collected through Bike Maps will be useful not only to cyclists, but to police and other academic researchers.
“Our message has mostly been around safety, but including the incidents of bike theft made sense. There is bike theft (in Greater Victoria) and with Bike Maps, we’ll see it in clusters of place and time.”
See more at bikemaps.org.
The project was funded by the Canadian Automobile Association and the Capital Regional District.