Mapping cycling-auto crashes builds awareness

Data collection integral to preventing future incidents

Struck in DC is a grassroots organization that uses Twitter and blogs to collect data and then map locations where cyclists and pedestrians are hit by cars in the Washington, DC area. The phenomenon is a growing trend as more people take to commuting by bike in the US.

Kimberly Shults, a resident of the US capital city, and her friends started Struck in DC after they noticed a surge in Twitter updates from District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services reporting these types of incidents.

She now runs the Struck in DC Twitter account, @struckdc, and an accompanying blog to engage the public and raise awareness about cyclist-motorist crashes.

“My partners and I at Struck in DC have been discussing the 'why and what now' aspect of what we're doing,” Shults said. “I think it's certainly raised awareness about the frequency of accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists. The next step would likely involve engaging with city stakeholders to discuss ways in which we can make DC safer for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Struck in DC currently relies on accident data and information from DC Fire and EMS along with individual reports and news stories. However, Shults aims to reach out to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) as additional sources, as well as getting city officials on board.

“The key to keeping track of these incidents in a useful or constructive way is accurate data,” Shults said. “Part of what we would want to work on with city officials is how to collect useful data, especially contributing factors. For instance, was the pedestrian in the crosswalk? Was either the pedestrian or motorist distracted? If so, how? Was the cyclist in a bike lane? Did they signal properly? Was the motorist speeding?

"These types of factors are the most essential missing pieces from every story. If we could identify consistent behaviors or conditions that result in accidents, we could work toward positive change for everyone.”

Stephen Miller is responsible for collecting data from Struck in DC’s Twitter and blog, and mapping each location. There are several related efforts in other major cities across the US including Boston and New York all of which document roadway injuries and fatalities. Other cities that have begun documenting cyclist-auto accidents include Portland, Providence and Detroit.

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