Search"dooring"

My television interview about dooring data

Last week you heard me on WGN 720 AM talk about bicycling in Chicago and my bike crash map.

This week you’ll get to see me talk about bike crash and dooring data on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight program. It comes after a rule change announced on Sunday: the Illinois Department of Transportation will begin collecting crash reports for doorings. Previously, these were “unreportable.”

WTTW reporter Ash-har Quraishi came over to my house Thursday to ask me about what kind of information the crash data I obtained from IDOT includes and excludes.

Illinois will finally begin tracking dooring bike crashes

Governor Quinn made a rule change today requiring Illinois police departments to record dooring-type bicycle crashes on the SR-1050 motorist crash reporting form, according to Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune. The announcement will be made tomorrow.

Apparently, Gov. Quinn read the Chicago Tribune’s article on March 21st about how the Illinois Department of Transportation could not and would not collect information on dooring crashes. I first wrote about this data deficiency on March 11.

For now, responding police officers will have to write DOORING next to the bicyclist’s name on the crash reporting form (the Chicago Police method was to write DOORING on a second piece of paper and record this data internally – IDOT would not accept the second page). The Tribune article explains that IDOT already ordered a bunch of new forms and won’t make a new order until 2013 at which time the form will have a checkbox making this process much simpler.

I would like to thank Governor Quinn, writer Jon Hilkevitch, Amanda Woodall, the Active Transportation Alliance, and all who contacted IDOT asking for their reporting standards to be changed to record dooring crashes. This means that next year you’ll see bike crash maps with a ton more dots – those of doorings, unless we continue educating ourselves, family and friends about riding AWAY from the door zone.

Why collecting this data is important

From the article:

[Active Transportation] Alliance officials said dooring accidents are common, basing the conclusion on reports from bicyclists. But without a standardized statewide reporting system, there has been no way to accurately quantify the problem or pinpoint locations where such accidents frequently occur and where modifications to street layouts would help, alliance officials said.

“We hope to use the data to obtain funding for education safety so drivers as well as bicyclists know what the risks are and what the factors are to create safer roadways,” said Dan Persky, director of education at the alliance.

Ride out of the door zone. Illustration by Gary Kavanagh.

Why the Chicago bike crash map doesn’t show doorings

The data on the Chicago bike crash map comes from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) after reports are made to the Chicago Police Department, but it’s missing certain types of crashes. IDOT currently will not collect data about doorings.

Some Chicago cyclists created this sticker to alert drivers and their passengers to the dangers of the door. “Someone opened a door and killed my friend.” This is version 1 of the sticker; see version 2. Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.

Here’s a summary of the process:

1. Police officers make the reports

Chicago police officers collect information on dooring (outlawed by MCC 9-80-035) because of a recent agreement with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) – the importance of reporting doorings became a bigger priority after someone died after being doored on LaSalle Street in 2008.

When there is a dooring, Chicago police officers use an “Additional Units Form” in addition to SR-1050 (standard reporting form for Illinois motor vehicle crashes) and write “dooring” where the IDOT barcode would be on the Additional Units Form.

2. How the Chicago Police Department records it

When the Chicago Police Records Office sees that there’s no barcode they know they can’t send it to IDOT, but they see “dooring” and scan it for their own records (so they can provide it to crash parties later) and then email that number to the CDOT Bicycle Program. (There was a general order put out by CPD on this procedure and, yes, they actually send them– at least some of them.)

The CPD also knows that doorings, according to IDOT, are not a “reportable” crash. In addition to doorings, IDOT doesn’t consider the following as “reportable” crashes:

  • Any crash in which the first point of impact does not involve a moving motor vehicle.
  • Any non-injury crash which causes less than $1500 in property damage, unless one or more of the drivers was uninsured.

3. CDOT and Chicago Police Department connect

CDOT can then connect to the Police Departments records system, download a scan of the crash report, reads it and enters specifics into a tracking spreadsheet.

This is how dooring data is collected in Chicago because IDOT will throw away reports or attachments without barcodes. This should change. This process affects ALL cities in the State of Illinois but as far as I’m aware, only Chicago records doorings. It’s unfortunate that local agencies are forced to bear this additional task and provide special training for thousands of officers outside of statewide practices because IDOT doesn’t acknowledge the importance of this issue and revise its reporting policy.

Below is the SR-1050 form and you can see the IDOT barcode with the case number below it. The bike and pedestrian crash data I have from IDOT includes those case numbers.

Read more about doorings on Grid Chicago.

FOIA is great…if you know who and what to ask for

Dooring is dangerous (sometimes deadly) for bicyclists. Where's the data? Image via The Blaze

Dooring is dangerous (sometimes deadly) for bicyclists. Where’s the data? Image via The Blaze

tl;dr: This is the list of all citation types that the Chicago Dept. of Administrative Hearings “administers”.

The Freedom of Information Act is my favorite law because it gives the public – and me – great access to work, information, and data that the public – including me – causes to have created for the purpose of running governments.

FOIA requires public agencies to publish (really, email you) stuff that they make and don’t publish on their own (which is dumb), and reply to you within five days.

All you have to do is ask for it!

BUT: Who do you ask?

AND: What do you ask them for?

This is the hardest thing about submitting a FOIA request.

Lately, my friend and I – more my friend than me – have been trying to obtain data on the number of traffic citations issued to motorists for opening their door into traffic – a.k.a. “dooring”.

It is dangerous everywhere, and in Chicago this is illegal. In Chicago it carries a steep fine. $500 if you don’t hurt a bicyclist, and $1,000 if you do.

My friend FOIA’d the Chicago Police Department. You know, the agency that actually writes the citations. They don’t have bulk records to provide.

Then he FOIA’d the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings, and the Chicago Department of Finance.

Each of these five agencies tells you on their website how to submit a FOIA request. You can also use FOIA Machine to help you find a destination for your request.

None of them have the records either. The “FOIA officer” for the Administrative Hearings department suggested that he contact the Cook County Circuit Court. So that’s what we’re doing.

Oh, and since the Administrative Hearings department doesn’t have this information (even though they have the records of citations for a lot of other traffic violations), I figured I would ask for them for a list of citations that they do have records of.

And here’s the list, all 3,857 citation types. You’ll notice a lot of them don’t have a description, and some of very short and unclear descriptions. Hopefully you can help me fix that!

I can grant you editing access on the Google Doc and we can improve this list with some categorizations, like “building violations” and “vehicle code”.

 

Android versus iOS: my Chicago Bike Laws experience

Chicago Bike Laws: dooring info

Screenshot of Chicago Bike Laws, highlighting the dooring law.

For all this talk that more people use Android, and Android has the biggest and still-growing chunk of the smartphone market (in the United States and the world), I’m not seeing that reflected in how many downloads there are of my two apps.

Chicago Bike Laws is a free app that has been available for Android (download) since November 4 and on iOS (download) since November 9, a 5-day difference. Yet the iOS version has had more installations (58) since then while people have downloaded the Android version 32 times (but 5 people removed it).

What gives? The app is exactly the same for both platforms.

Are Chicago bicyclists more likely to have iPhones? I don’t do any platform-specific promotion so you can count that out.

(The experience I’ve had with Chicago Bike Guide activity is different because the Android version came online over a year later and has always been a paid app – Android apps cannot switch between free and paid while iOS apps can. By the way, the Chicago Bike Guide is free for iOS right now and half-off for Android. The comparison is that the adoption rate is much slower for the Android version.)

Pervasive Divvy station maps offer big opportunity to show people around Chicago, but need major changes

A man looks at one of the first five stations installed, at State and Randolph (but the board says State and Lake). 

Navigation maps on Divvy bike sharing stations will be placed at 400 locations around the city. A map this pervasive, to be read and interpreted by hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors to Chicago (including people who will never use Divvy), should have a design that communicates good routes to ride, and important places like train stations, nearby Divvy stations, points of interest, and where to find places to eat or be entertained.

The design of the maps on the station boards needs to be improved. The first issue I noticed in June is that streets and alleys are given equal significance in their symbology, possibly confusing people on which route to take. The map should strip alleys, offering room for more info on the map, like useful destinations. It may be easier for some to locate the Art Institute of Chicago as a labeled, light-gray block instead of trying to locate its address on the map (nigh impossible). When one locates the destination, one can more easily locate the nearest Divvy station.

The map at North/Clybourn’s station (actually on Dayton Street) covers a large portion of the map with the “you are here” label and lacks the connection between North Avenue and Goose Island. 

I’ve noticed that the “you are here” labels cover up train station markers/labels, and the loop elevated tracks are missing (a common reference point for Chicago). It takes a moment to realize that the white text is labeling the CTA stations and not the nearby Divvy stations. It’s unclear where “you are here” points to, until you realize that it’s at the center of the blue 5-minute walking circle. Dearborn Street is symbolized as a bike lane, but not labeled as a street. Clark Street and State Street are doubly wide, but the meaning of that is unknown. The legend is useful to distinguish bike lane types but is placed far from the map, at the bottom of the board.

Here are other areas where the boards and maps should be redesigned:

  1. The “service area” map has low utility in its current form as it’s not labeled with streets, points of interest, or a time or distance scale. It appears as a reduced-boundary blob of Chicago. It could be improved if it communicated “this is where you can go if you take Divvy” and label streets, train stations, and points of interest at the edge of the service area. 
  2. The 5-minute bike ride map is nearly identical to the 5-minute walk map, but smaller. The 5-minute walk map should be made larger and integrate the now-eliminated 5-minute bike ride map.
  3. Much of the text is unnecessarily large. The CTA station labels are so large in comparison to the streets that it’s not clear where on the block the stations are located. CTA stations are labeled but the train routes aren’t always shown (Loop stops are just gray); it’s not even clear that they’re CTA stops.
  4. The purpose of the blue circle isn’t labeled or clear: the larger map, titled “5 minute walk”, shows a large map but there’s a blue circle – is the blue circle or the square map the 5-minute edge? The connection between the title and the blue circle could be tightened by using the same color for the text and the circle or by wrapping the text around the circle path.
  5. The map, which is likely to serve as a neighborhood “get around” and discovery map for tourists, and even locals, lacks basic info: there are absolutely no destinations marked, no museums, parks, etc.
  6. The bike lane symbology doesn’t match the Chicago Bike Map, which uses blue, purple, orange, and red to denote different bike lane types, and hasn’t used green for at least seven years. The use of green makes them look like narrow parks.
  7. The map designers should consider placing the city’s cardinal grid numbering system to enable readers to find an address.
  8. North/Clybourn’s Divvy station map lacks a bikeable connection from North Avenue to Goose Island via the Cherry Avenue multi-modal bridge. The maps should be reviewed for street network accuracy by people who live and ride nearby.

Photo shows the original board and map at the Milwaukee/Wood/Wolcott station, which has since moved. The station on this map marked at Marshfield/North was moved to Wood/North this week. 

There are many opportunities for the map to change because they will have to be updated when stations are moved, for both the moved station and the handful of station boards that include the moved station. At least four boards needed to be updated when the station at Milwaukee/Wood/Wolcott moved from Milwaukee Avenue (next to Walgreens) to Wood Street (across from the Beachwood). The maps for Citibike in New York City don’t share these design flaws.

The Citibike station boards and maps were designed by Pentagram, a well-known design firm, with whom the city has a longstanding relationship, designing the new wayfinding signs for neighborhoods, the “LOOK” anti-dooring decal for taxi windows, and the bus station maps. One of the key differences between the Citibike and Divvy maps is the text label size, the symbol label size, and the presence of building outlines (that other huge group of things that defines a city, contrasting the roads-only view on the Divvy map).

A close-up view of a Citibike map. Photo by Oran Viriyincy. 

N.B. More trips are currently taken by tourists and people with 24-hour memberships than people with annual memberships. I question the bikeway symbology and suggest that the streets have three symbols: one representing a bike lane (of any kind), one representing sharrows (because they are legally different from bike lanes) and one representing a street with no marked bikeways. The current bikeway symbology may not be understandable by many visitors (or even understood by locals because of differing definitions) and show a jumble of green hues whose meanings are not clear or even useful. It’s not currently possible to take a route on a bicycle that uses only protected bike lanes, or uses protected bike lanes and buffered bike lanes, so the utility of this map as a route building tool is weak. One wastes their time looking at this map in the attempt to construct a route which uses the darkest green-hued streets.

I also recommend that the board and map designers give Divvy CycleFinder app messaging greater prominence. I believe that a majority of users will be searching app stores for appropriate apps. When you search for Divvy, you’ll find eight apps, including my own Chicago Bike Guide.

Updated 22:43 to clarify my critique and make more specific suggestions for changes. 

My experience with Divvy today: smooth and slow

Trading one bike for another.

In short, the functionality was everything I expected it to be.

Read more about the Divvy launch on Streetsblog Chicago here, here, here, and here (all posted today). 

I biked to the station at Damen Ave & Pierce St (Damen Blue Line station), locked my WorkCycles Fr8 to a potential sucker pole (it still had its bolt), grabbed my tote bag from its basket and stuffed that into the oddly shaped carrier on the Divvy bicycle. I inserted my key into the slot and waited for the green light. I only saw yellow. It was either never going to turn green on this bike, or I didn’t wait long enough. I tried the next bike and it unlocked.

To undock, lift the bicycle by its saddle and pull backwards. I adjusted the seat to its maximum. I also adjusted the quick release because someone had loosened it so it wouldn’t tighten the seat post. Off I went, through the congested streets of Wicker Park.

I wanted to hit up every dock on my way to my destination: Eckhart Park. My friend told me this station wasn’t there although the map said a couple of days ago it was there. Divvy’s spokesperson, Elliot Greenberger, told me it was moved from the corner of Chicago Ave & Noble St to inside the park (east of the field house) for traffic safety reasons that he didn’t specify in the quick email. The station was offline.

On the way I stopped at the station outside the Walgreens at Wood St & Milwaukee Ave. I returned my bike and checked it out less than 5 seconds later – this is called docksurfing (thanks Doug). I biked over to the next station on the way to the park: Noble St & Milwaukee Ave.

Rebalancing by removing bikes from this station to take them to another. 

There was a guy here with one of the blue Sprinter vans loading bikes into the van. I asked if he was rebalancing. Yep. I asked how many could fit inside: “22 if I’m lazy, or 24 if I play Tetris right”. He asked me what I was doing and I said I was trying Divvy for the first time. He said “Have a great ride!” Aw, how nice.

I found the station at Eckhart Park just as it started raining. But like most storms this week, it stopped raining after 5-10 minutes. I got nervous because I didn’t know when I checked out this bike and I didn’t want to run over my free 30 minute period. I’ll have to pay better attention next time and perhaps get this kitchen timer on a rope (it has a magnet, too; thanks for the idea, Robert).

I biked the Divvy steed over Noble Street’s potholes, cracks, and bumps, with extreme comfort and agility. My WorkCycles Fr8 isn’t this comfortable (except it better matches my height). The aluminum frame and wide Schwalbe tires wonderfully absorb bumps. I docked the bike, then sat on it and texted a few more people about how cool Divvy is. After a couple minutes, I checked out the same bike and rode it back over to Damen Ave & Pierce St. I traded back to my Fr8 and came home.

The awkward carrier, but it held my tote bag.

Whining about the bike as being heavy is uncalled for: many of the bikes people ride in Chicago are within 25% of the weight of a Divvy (which is around 45 pounds). Think about all those vintage Schwinns people are riding: they weigh the same yet Divvy rolls so much smoother and more comfortably and it won’t flat as often. Then there’re the mountain bikes from department stores like Walmart and Target. Those have no consideration of longevity, efficiency, or “weight savings”: they’re just as heavy and wear out within a year. The Divvy bike, I believe, is the first universally-designed setup I’ve seen. Bicycle shops will be doing themselves a service to stock the closest-feeling bike as some Divvy members are going to migrate to owning their bicycle and will seek the Divvy equivalent.

What I dislike about the Divvy bicycles is its low gearing. My average speed was less than 10 MPH while on my Fr8 it’s just over 12 MPH. Whatever. In most places in Chicago, you shouldn’t be going fast because you won’t be able to spot and anticipate all the drivers who have inattentional blindness and won’t see you before dooring you or swerving into your path.

(Whet thinks he hit 15 MPH, which I told him I doubted, but I would love to have a Divvy race with him!)

I saw one other person riding a Divvy on my short (less than 45 minutes) journey on Divvy in Wicker Park and around Eckhart Park. 

An app that shows real-time availability is available in Cyclefinder, but the Divvy staff didn’t promote this until people inquired on Twitter and Facebook. The app was updated by the Divvy hardware vendor on June 21 to include the Chicago system in the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store, but you had to search for “divvy” to find it and since it wasn’t branded as “Divvy” I bet a lot of people avoided installing it.

You can also buy and download my app, the Chicago Bike Guide, which has Divvy station location integrated (read how). However, I must warn you that it’s already slightly out of date and I’m working on fixing this. I’m also working on real-time availability as I’ve just discovered the API. This is going to take me at least a week.

Don’t forget there’s a hidden bell by your left thumb. 

Updating street life on Milwaukee Avenue

Photo of the new on-street bike parking corral at Revolution Brewing (2323 N Milwaukee Avenue) in Logan Square, less than 10 hours after being installed. 

First, Revolution Brewing now has 20 (or more) new bike parking spaces in what used to hold about two cars. Kudos to that awesome restaurant and brewery for working through the arduous process with the Chicago Department of Transportation and Alderman Moreno (who likely helped with the transfer of the metered car parking spaces). CDOT’s Scott Kubly admitted to having a bad process for businesses who want to install their own bike parking.

Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA had issues after the first round of bike racks we* installed in 2011. We donated the bike racks to the city for them to install at mutually agreeable locations at which they marked the spot for the contractor. We wanted to repeat the process in 2012 and bought the racks but they couldn’t be installed because CDOT, accepting the racks as donations in 2011 said that that wasn’t the right process and couldn’t do it again. So they had to figure out a new process. The racks were manufactured and delivered in 2012 to CDOT but weren’t installed until April 2013. Before the fix came in April 2013, we were going to have to go through the most basic process of buying a permit for each one (for $50) and then pay to have them installed ourselves.

The fix was great for the SSA, and I’m glad CDOT was able to make it happen: they got IDOT to amend the existing bike parking contract to allow the contractor to install non-city-paid-for bike racks. (This was the issue for the 2011 racks.)

Second, I’m proposing that private automobile traffic be banned on Milwaukee Avenue from Paulina Avenue to Damen Avenue. It would be better for the residents, and the businesses, and would encourage more cycling in the neighborhood, as well as surrounding neighborhoods having residents who would bike on Milwaukee Avenue if it was safer (there’s a big dooring and general crash issue). I reference the single, car-free block on Nørrebrogade in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, Denmark. One single block (plus bikeway and pedestrian-way improvements on the other blocks) and car traffic goes down but bus and bike traffic go up.

What Milwaukee Avenue looks like every afternoon. 

What Milwaukee Avenue could look like every afternoon. 

* I volunteer on the transportation committee, since about May 2011.

Is there a member of the ITE who will stand up against bad road designs?

Sharing the road is one place to start. Why should one on a two-wheeled, muscle-powered device pedal along side a garbage truck with blind spots? Wait, why does an automobile even have blind spots? This enormous right-turn lane is one example of “dangerous by design”. 

Update October 5, 2012: For a great example on why I cannot – and why you should not – support bad road designs is this story of a fatal bike crash on a major biking “commuterway” in Chicago. We must stop building narrow bike lanes to the left of parked cars and we can be done with this type of crash for good.

The infrastructure as we have it in Chicago and many other American cities cannot support any increases in bicycling. The operation and design of our infrastructure creates a finite limit for the number of people who will bicycle on it. I’m not talking about how many people can use it, but how many people want to use it.

We’ve seen infinitesimal growth in the bicycle’s mode share for commuting to work, so small that the growth might not actually be growth at all because all the reported increases are within the range of error (the Census Bureau being the collector and distributor of the data). Our infrastructure is not safe, and that is what inhibits an increase in bicycling riders and trips that the City of Chicago, its mayor, its council, its officially adopted plans, and its people, desire. Until our roads are made safe, the cycle growth will remain minuscule or non-existent. The only other significant factor in promoting cycling is high gasoline prices, but even as they remain high, the cycle growth (or spike, seen in 2008) hasn’t returned.

It’s a small group of people who are designing and maintaining our roads. And they are the first group of people we listen to when we say we want safe roads. Instead of the people who’ve actually built safe roads.

The ITE is the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and, like many organizations, has a code of ethics. In their Canons of Ethics document (.pdf), there are at least two sections that require members to stand against bad road designs.

Section 1: The member will have due regard for the safety, health and welfare of the public in the performance of professional duties.

Section 11: The member will guard against conditions that are dangerous or threatening to life, limb, or property on work for which the member is responsible, or, if not responsible, will promptly call such conditions to the attention of those who are responsible.

A study in Portland, Oregon, found that 60% of residents wanted to bike, but had concerns about safety.

These residents are curious about bicycling. They are hearing messages from a wide variety of sources about how easy it is to ride a bicycle in Portland, about how bicycling is booming in the city, about “bicycle culture” in Portland, about Portland being a “bicycle-friendly” city, and about the need for people to lead more active lives. They like riding a bicycle, remembering back to their youths, or to the ride they took last summer on the Springwater, or in the BridgePedal, or at Sun River, and they would like to ride more. But, they are afraid to ride. They don’t like the cars speeding down their streets. They get nervous thinking about what would happen to them on a bicycle when a driver runs a red light, or guns their cars around them, or passes too closely and too fast.

American roads are dangerous by design. It’s time to fire the people who design them that way.

Year after year, roads in Chicago are ripped up, repaved, and restriped in exactly the same way that existed before. Miles of missed opportunities for safer roads. This essay says nothing of the lack of police enforcement of traffic rules, for which there is little empirical evidence. The essay may be updated from time to time, but I won’t be noting each change.

An example of a better design: the buses and bikes don’t mix, and automobiles turning left cannot be passed by through-automobiles. Bicyclists are safer. 

What is Conversation Cycling?

Mikael Colville-Anderson posted a link to this photo set called Conversation Cycling (his photo above). The concept of Conversation Cycling is simple:

Build a bikeway so two people can cycle side-by-side to have a pleasant chat. 

I want this for Chicago. When you ride with friends, how would you prefer to ride: yelling ahead in our narrow bike lanes or conversing to the side? This is sometimes possible on the Lakefront Trail, but not always: the Lakefront Trail’s maximum width is the same as the standard with for cycle tracks in Europe!

Bike lanes in the United States, when they’re available and not being parked in, are not even wide enough for one person to ride without danger of being doored. It’s not surprising this is the case. In addition to how we prioritize the movement of automobiles and the placement of parking before pedaling, the national minimum width for a bike lane is 4 feet (without gutter), or 5 feet when next to parked cars or with a gutter.

I gathered some hard evidence: My handlebars are 28 inches wide. The door of my roommate’s car is 32 inches wide. 28+32 = 60 inches, or 5 feet. And that’s without a buffer. Essentially, bike lanes as we’ve built them are not compatible with the rest of the street.

Two Department of Revenue workers cycle side by side, meeting the edges of the bike lane, on Armitage Avenue in Lincoln Park. Photo by Mike Travis. 

Door zone bike lanes are not unique to any American city. Illustration by Gary Kavanagh. 

A group cycles on Damen Avenue in and out of the bike lane. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

« Older posts

© 2019 Steven Can Plan

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑