Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reporting bike crashes, hazards, and thefts

We often hear about bike crashes that occur and are never reported. This happens for a number of reasons. People may not think it's worth reporting or that police will not record the crash. They may not want to wait for the police to arrive or they've negotiated with the other person involved and don't feel a report is necessary. As a result, crashes reported to the police are only a small fraction of all bike crashes.

We've been trying to meet with the police to discuss two recent bike crashes, on West Ox Road and on Sunrise Valley Dr in Reston. We've gotten very little information so far. We did have a short discussion with a public information officer. We also want to know who to contact in the future for information when there is a bike crash in the county.

The discussion brought up the larger issue of how bike crashes are tracked. From what we can tell, a bike crash is only reported if there is property damage greater than $1,000 or there is a personal injury. In this situation, a driver must stop if this has occurred. There appears to be no threshold to the severity of the injury. According to the information officer, the crash reporting system may be able to handle all reported bike crashes.

Besides asking for information about the two crashes, we've asked for a map of all bike crashes in the county in recent years. We're still waiting on both requests. Even with the map, we know that many crashes will go unreported.

The Cascades Bicycle Club based in Seattle has developed an innovative online application for bicyclists to report crashes as well as road or trail hazards and bike thefts. It's called bikewise and the application works anywhere in the world. We plan to start using it on a test basis. If you'd like to do the same, visit the bikewise site and report any appropriate incidents. Cyclists in Arlington and DC have already begun using it.

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