To decrease air pollution and traffic congestion, local governments and other advocates have been heavily promoting a transportation alternative that's good for you and the planet: bike commuting. Although many people are starting to see the benefits of biking, there are still many others who are hesitant because of perceived and real dangers.
To help make biking safer we need to make it smarter. Enter Bikewise, a new collaborative information site where bike commuters can enter reports about thefts, crashes and hazards. Cascade Bicycle Club collaborated with Worldhchanging ally Phil Mitchell to build the site as a place where people can share their experiences to make biking safer and more fun. The Bikewise team says that the reports will help them collect "good data on the things that sometimes go wrong:"
Crashes: It's estimated that 75% or more of all crashes go unreported. We believe that by gathering detailed information on how and why crashes happen, we'll be able to ride smarter. Also, we hope that knowing where crash hotspots are will help us to identify issues with traffic behavior and road design.
Hazards: How many times have you ridden past a dangerous sewer grate or overgrown vegetation and wished there were someplace to report it? Now there is. We aim to not only collect hazard reports, but to pass these on to the appropriate authorities.
Thefts: Tracking where and how bikes get stolen is a key part of preventing thefts. We're currently working on other pieces of this system, so that if your bike does get stolen, you have a better chance of getting it back.
Although the site's creators are based in Seattle, this tool is available for cyclists everywhere. The site (with about 90 percent accuracy) can sense your location, and will pull up information for the city you are surfing the web from. I think it's great that Bikewise has created a space for people to talk to each other about how to make their city a better place. The trick will be getting enough users to generate reports to make the data useful for people like city planners, analysts and public policy officials. So, if you're a cyclist, head to Bikewise and get the conversation started!
I really feel like this tool exemplifies the beauty of the internet, and informational wealth in general. They've built the tool once, for Seattle, but in the process have created a system which can be used anywhere there's Google Maps coverage (which is basically everywhere) and interested users! And it actually only takes a relatively small proportion of users to get the infrastructural issues fairly well covered. Here's hoping it gets good enough coverage to take off...
A great initiative that will add weight to arguments for better provision for cyclists wherever enough stats accumulate to convince planners, politicians and their ilk.
One caveat: people considering cycling (but not currently doing so) might be scared off by maps showing how dangerous their neighbourhood is. I'm not sure how to get round this potential problem; it would probably require some graphical way of showing, for example, the rate of accidents rather than simply the accumulating number (which will eventually look horrific even if the rate is low).
If safety is an issue, one thing that may prove helpful on a bike path is to install root deflectors on both sides of pathway.
Root Solutions plastic panels come equipped with "vertical" ribs that drive tree roots downward, away from asphalt of pavement.
Their installation provides a legal foundation on which the avoidance of liability may rest.
To omit their installation where applicable, i.e. proximity to paths or sidewalks cannot be celebrated as compelling exercise in safety or public good. Often when trees are planted in the urban landscape or near a bike path , the roots will upend the surface making it more dangerous to cyclists. These surfaces often do not meet ADA compliance standards.