I want to make a crash reporting tool

UPDATE 12-01-10: Thank you to Richard Masoner for posting this on Cyclelicious. I have started collecting everyone’s great ideas and responses in this development document.

Hot off the heels of making my “Can I bring my bike on Metra right now?” web application, I am ready to start on the next great tool*.

I want to create a bicycle crash reporting tool for Chicago (but release the source code for any city’s residents to adopt) along the lines of B-SMaRT for Portlanders and the Boston Cyclist’s Union crash map based on 911 calls.

I’d rather not reinvent the wheel (but I’m very capable of building a new web application based in PHP and MySQL) so I’ve been trying to get in contact with Joe Broach, the creator of B-SMaRT, to get my hands on that source code.


Not exactly the type of crash I’ll be looking for. Photo by Jason Reed.

I want the Chicago Crash Collector (please think of a better name) to have both citizen-reported data, and data from police reports. I just sent in my FOIA request for police data to the Chicago Police Department, but I’m not holding my breath for that.

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About Steven Vance

Enthusiast for urbanism, bicycling as transportation, and open data. Building a bicycle culture in Chicago.
  • http://dottiebrackett.com Dream Dottie

    That would be great, especially something that counts doorings as crashes.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I will get to create my own crash categories.

      I am thinking of having the tool report police data, data from newspapers (like when the newspaper reports fatalities and hit and runs), and user-reported data.

      Doorings would definitely be included.

  • Ash L

    I would love a tool like this. accidents are obviously grossly underreported and if a cyclist absolutely does not want to report the incident to police this would be a worthwhile way to document it and get an idea of which roadways and intersections are the most dangerous for us.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      There are so many questions with which I’ll need help answer, first to ensure the data is useful, and second to encourage people to actually use it.

      It will need to protect privacy, keep away fake reports, but be easy to use.

  • http://twitter.com/lindsaybanks Lindsay Banks

    Sounds like a good idea to me. I was thinking of the “Struck in DC” blog and the guy who was looking for witnesses to his accident…maybe something like commenting ability or a link that says “I witnessed this accident!”


  • Andy

    I think mapping progs are more functional when you can toggle layers. For instance, I don’t care about drunken crashes since that has nothing to do with location. I also delineate between “a cyclist lost control and crashed” and “a car driver turned into the cyclist.” The former more often occurs on hills, or poorly engineered roads with raised sewer grates for example, where the latter is more likely from traffic engineering issues such as right hooks where special lanes or markings don’t exist.

  • http://treehugger.com Lloyd Alter

    there is a great open source program called Ushahidi that was developed to track incidents in the civil war in Kenya a couple of years ago that has been used for all kinds of purposes since then; I am using it to track heritage buildings at risk at http://www.thisplacematters.ca and it is easy to set up, has iphone and android apps, very effective crowdsourcing software.

  • http://twitter.com/Wuss912 Wuss912

    you probably could steal inspiration from here… http://bikesiliconvalley.org/incident-report

  • http://twitter.com/lachlanhurst Lachlan Hurst

    And here’s something I prepared earlier;


    It’s not an entirely new idea, sometime ago I did read of one or two others…

    BikeBingle runs on Google App Engine, mainly so that I don’t have to pay for hosting but it did also serve as a great development platform. Server side code written in Python, client is written in Java (then compiled to JavaScript using GWT). Would be willing to open source or a least involve others in the development as further development has been non-existent of the last few years.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      Thanks for linking me to BikeBingle. I will need to investigate it further, as well as possibly using for Google App Engine if/when I start making a crash reporting tool.
      I’ve added your suggestions to the development document: http://wiki.stevevance.net/bicycling/crash_reporting_tool

  • Pete Stidman

    Try your ambulance department, likely they are more motivated than police to respond to a public health issue such as this. Not sure how Chicago is set up for Ambulance service, but in Boston it’s one agency that responds to 911. We’re working with our police department as well in the hopes of combining several data streams, but the progress with them—as it is a larger bureaucracy with more competing interests such as a higher homicide rate this year—has been slower.

    Also-get your city’s health commission involved—call the person in charge of injury prevention!

    -Pete from Boston Cyclists Union

    • Pete Stidman

      Oh, and our map is based on ambulance runs and EMT reports, not “911 calls.” So we get very detailed reports that are not available online. From these we can usually determine “doorings” and other crash types.

      I would advise against self reporting—because what you get is only crashes within whatever bike subculture is reached by the map and by the web. Boston did that before our map and the spread of accidents across the city is very different in each—and could give people the wrong ideas about priority streets and areas. (This is particularly true in communities of color, which were heavily under-reported in Boston’s self-reported crash survey.)

      • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

        Thanks for the correction about where the data comes from (not 911).

        I will definitely take into consideration your advice about not collecting self-reported crashes. As I mentioned in the final paragraph, I would like to have both city-provided data, and user-submissions.

        I put in a FOIA request to the Chicago Police Department, but I have low confidence that anyone will respond. I could put in the same request to our Fire Department (which manages ambulance/EMT services).

        • http://jqr.posterous.com Jonathan R

          Great idea for a tracker! In New York City, all ambulance run information is transmitted to the state eventually, but the 911 system goes through the city first. One problem with ambulance data is getting the location right if the accident happened in the past, e.g. I get doored at 8:30 am and a friend comes to pick me up, while recuperating I feel worse and at 9:00 am the ambulance comes to get me at the friend’s house. It’s unlikely the crash location will be on the ambulance run report.

          • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

            I just got my response from the Chicago Police Department regarding my FOIA request. Response interesting, but not supportive or helpful. I also made a FOIA request for ambulance data to the Chicago Fire Department and I’m awaiting their response.

            Your suggestion is important. Data will need to be very accurate to ensure we can analyze it well.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I like your suggestion about contact the City’s health commission. It would also be a good idea to contact the public health schools around Chicago.

  • http://sidburgess.com Sid Burgess

    Have you looked at Waze yet?

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      Waze seems to be more useful for drivers who experience traffic delays.