mapping dangerous spots on a bike commute route

I just saw this amazing tool mentioned on BikeCalgary – an interactive map that lets you plot your bike commute route and then display bike-related incidents (I won’t call them accidents, because they’re not).

Turns out, my commuting route has only had 2 reported incidents in the last several years – both on a narrow stretch that causes me constant grief with drivers thinking they need to pass me even though it’s not safe to do so.

I had to fuss around with the map’s route plotting, because it doesn’t grok the pathway-road hybrid route. I don’t drive all wiggly like that, but I had to trick the map into getting the intersections I use…

Route mapping tools are available for Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

Update: I just realized there may be holes in the data – a friend of mine was hit while riding his bike at one of the major intersections on my route, but that doesn’t show up here. Not sure exactly where this data comes from – he was rushed to the hospital by ambulance, so there would be some record of the incident… (and his GPS tracker congratulated him on the record speed he got for his ride, as he was in the back of the ambulance…)

And, of course, these are just the reported incidents of injuries. There are several orders of magnitude more close calls that never get reported or recorded…

Update 2: Here’s a photo of that stretch of road. Doesn’t look dangerous, but it’s narrow, on a hill, with a corner at the bottom. Poor visibility, solid yellow line. Cars parked on both sides of the road. Often with big city buses coming in both directions as I come through here – they get to squeeze by. It’s a tight fit. Scary.

Silver Springs

cyclists cause less than 10% of accidents involving cyclists

That’s pretty scary. And the article sounds pretty accurate.

While there is a public perception that cyclists are usually the cause of accidents between cars and bikes, an analysis of Toronto police collision reports shows otherwise: The most common type of crash in this study involved a motorist entering an intersection and either failing to stop properly or proceeding before it was safe to do so. The second most common crash type involved a motorist overtaking unsafely. The third involved a motorist opening a door onto an oncoming cyclist. The study concluded that cyclists are the cause of less than 10 per cent of bike-car accidents in this study.

The available evidence suggests that collisions have far more to do with aggressive driving than aggressive cycling.

Also, the U of T has an article with an interview with Dr. Chris Cavacuiti, who is looking into cycling safety.

on taking the lane while riding

This evening, while riding home from work, I was involved in my first ever bike vs. car door incident. As I was approaching a red light, a driver decided it would be a great idea to open his door without looking. I had maybe 1 second to react, swerved left, and was thrown from my bike as it bounced off another car. If I hadn’t been able to react quickly enough, I would have crashed square into his open door at about 20km/h. I pictured myself being thrown onto the trunk of the taxi cab in the next lane, and was trying to pick my spot on the trunk to minimize damage to me. Thankfully, I was somehow able to stop before hitting the cab (have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE disk brakes?) and wound up just being thrown to the ground as I hit the cab. Thankfully all traffic was stopped, because it was at a red light. Who opens their door at a red light?

Getting up, I shared some pleasantries with the driver (a profound “WHAT THE *ahem* ARE YOU DOING? *jebus* *cripes*!”) I pulled the bike off to the sidewalk to inspect the damage, and everything looked OK. I thanked the driver for his care and attention, and continued riding home.

This incident brought home three things for me.

  1. assume every car on the road is full of braindead cretins hellbent on your destruction.
  2. assume every car on the road is about to open its doors.
  3. claim the lane. don’t ride so far to the right that an open door will kill you.

For the rest of the ride home, I tried to remember to claim the lane. It’s harder than it sounds. Riding in the lane, rather than along the edge. It’s intimidating, picturing traffic piling up behind. I was able to keep pretty close to traffic speeds, so that wasn’t a problem (except on a couple of uphill stretches). But, I’m going to keep claiming the lane.

I stopped a few km later to inspect the bike. There was no real damage, except for a chunk smashed off the rear fender from when it bounced off a car. Nothing fatal, but I’ll want to fill the gap so when riding in rain I don’t get a rooster tail.

Things could have ended so much differently. If I had failed to react, or if I’d been only a few mm to the right, I’d have had at the least a smashed right hand. At the worst, I’d have taken the full impact on his door with my head, or bounced off the taxi.

Update: It didn’t dawn on me until later that evening, but of the dozen or so cars stopped at the red light when I got doored, not a single person got out to see if I was OK. The driver that doored me asked “are you ok?” as he closed his door, but not a single person got out. Are people so insulated in their cars that they just don’t care? Did it all happen so quickly that they didn’t have a chance to snap out of their commuter comas in order to react?

Not a single person. This city can kiss me where I don’t have a tan.