Tagcrash map

Last minute vote on bicycle data visualization project

The United States Department of Transportation is holding a data visualization competition and Chicago bike crash locations are one of the topics.

From Michael Carney:

I started this project because, basically, I thought it would be interesting to make a map of bike crash locations around Chicago and present it to my GIS class at UIC. Sebastian Lew and I collaborated for several months and it evolved into something more. Using ArcGIS, we were able to symbolize streets by level of overall crash intensity, calculate crashes per mile on streets, perform hot spot analysis to identify areas with high numbers of crashes, compare ridership levels with crash levels, examine temporal trends in crash activity, and perhaps most importantly, assess the effectiveness (at least at a basic level) of current bicycle infrastructure. At the very least I hope our project can help you plan a safe route to work, at the most I hope it can be used by policymakers and planners when considering how and where to expand Chicago’s bike infrastructure.

Vote today onlyView the project.

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.

You may have heard me on the radio this morning in Chicago

Here’s the audio clip of my interview with WGN 720 AM producer Rob Hart about biking in Chicago and the bike crash map I made. It aired this morning – I had no idea until someone left me a comment on a Flickr photo that they heard me.

Listen now: Steven Vance on biking and bike crashes in Chicago on WGN.mp3 (will play in your browser).

I am too nervous to listen to this. I’m sure I said something wrong or misspoke.

Biking in Chicago is fun and you should do it. You don’t need special gear or equipment and you can buy a cheap bike at Working Bikes in Pilsen, at 2434 S Western Avenue.

Transcript

[ding, ding]

A little bell may be what comes to mind when you think of riding your bike, but the reality is more like this.

[sounds of traffic]

A busy street full of cars, trucks, and buses. With drivers who are looking at something else.

Me: There’s a lot of driveways. A lot of drivers are making right and left turns and if you ride too close to the curb they will probably not see you, so you have to ride sometimes outside the bike lane if you want to be noticed.

Steven Vance ditched his car 5 years ago. He rides his bike all over the city and he says sometimes it’s a white knuckled experience.

Me: It can be. It does take a little bit of resolve. Sometimes your nerves will get frayed, but I think the benefit outweighs the cost.

After a newspaper [Bay Citizen] in San Francisco mapped out bike crashes on its website, Vance decided to plot bike crashes in the Chicago area on his.

Me: I saw that, and I thought, “You know what, I think I can do that.” I asked the Illinois Department of Transportation for the data and they promptly sent it over and I, as quickly as possible, put it online.

The diagonal streets are the worst, he found, and that includes Milwaukee Avenue.

Me: You could find Milwaukee just by the number of dots representing the crashes. You didn’t need a label to say that this was Milwaukee Avenue. You could tell simply by the string, the constant string of dots.

 

Using Google Refine to get the stories out of your data

Let’s say you’re perusing the 309,425 crash reports for automobile crashes in Chicago from 2007 to 2009 and you want to know a few things quickly.

Like how many REAR END crashes there were in January 2007 that had more than 1 injury in the report. With Google Refine, you could do that in about 60 seconds. You just need to know which “facets” to setup.

By the way, there are 90 crash reports meeting those criteria. Look at the screenshot below for how to set that up.

Facets to choose to filter the data

  1. Get your January facet
  2. Add your 2007 facet
  3. Select the collision type of “REAR END” facet
  4. Choose to include all the reports where injury is greater than 1 (click “include” next to each number higher than 1)

After we do this, we can quickly create a map using another Google tool, Fusion Tables.

Make a map

  1. Click Export… and select “Comma-separated value.” The file will download. (Make sure your latitude and longitude columns are called latitude and longitude instead of XCOORD and YCOORD or sometimes Fusion Tables will choke on the location and try to geocode your records, which is redundant.)
  2. Go to Google Fusion Tables and click New Table>Import Table and select your file.
  3. Give the new table a descriptive title, like “January 2007 rear end crashes with more than 1 injury”
  4. In the table view, click Visualize>Map.
  5. BAM!

I completed all the tasks on this page in under 5 minutes and then spent 5 more minutes writing this blog. “The power of Google.”

Free online GIS tools: An introduction to GeoCommons

Read my tutorial on how I created the pedestrian map with GeoCommons. Read on for an introduction to GeoCommons and online GIS tools.

GeoCommons, like Google My Maps and Earth, is part of the “poor man’s GIS package.” It’s another tool that provides (few) of the functions that desktop GIS software offers. But it excels at making simple and somewhat complex maps.

I first used GeoCommons over a year ago. I started using it because it would convert whatever data you uploaded into another format that was probably more useful. I mentioned it in this article about converting files. For example, if you have a KML file, you can upload it and export it as a shapefile for GIS programs, or a CSV file to load into a table editor or spreadsheet application.

After creating the Chicago bike crash maps using Google Fusion Tables, I wanted to try out another map-making web application, one that provided more customization and prettier maps.

I found that web application and created a version of the bike crash maps, with several other data layers, in GeoCommons. I overlaid bike counts and bikeways so you can observe some relationships between each visual dataset. My latest map (screenshot below), created Wednesday, shows pedestrian counts in downtown Chicago overlaid with CTA and downtown Metra stations, as well as the 48 intersections with the most pedestrian collisions (from this UNC study, PDF).

Screenshot of pedestrian count map described above.

How these online GIS tools can be useful to you

I bet there’s a way you can use Google Fusion Tables and GeoCommons for your job or project. They’re extremely simple to use: they can take in data from the spreadsheets you’re already working on and turn them into themed reference maps. With mapping, you can do simple, visual analysis that doesn’t require statistical software or knowledge.

Imagine plotting your client list on a map and grouping them by age to see if perhaps your younger clients tend to live in the same neighborhoods of town, or if they’re more diverse (should you do this, keep the map private, something that you can’t do in GeoCommons – yet).

You may also find it useful if you want to create a route for your salespeople or for visiting church members at their homes. Plot all the addresses on a map, then manually filter them into different groups based on the clusters you see. With Google Fusion Tables, you can easily add a new column with the GROUP information and apply a numbered or lettered group and then re-sort.

Other things you can do in GeoCommons

  • Merge tables with geography – I uploaded two datasets: a table containing census tract IDs and demographic information for Cook County I downloaded from the American FactFinder 2; and a shapefile containing Cook County census tracts boundary information. After merging them, I could download a NEW shapefile that contained both datasets.
  • Make multi-layer maps
  • Symbolize based on frequency/rate
  • Convert data – This is by far the most useful feature. It imports “shapefiles (SHP), comma separated values (CSV), Keyhole Markup Language (KML), and GeoRSS” and exports “Shapefile, CSV, KML, GeoRSS Atom, Spatialite, and JSON” (from the GeoCommons user manual).

Read my tutorial on how I created the pedestrian map with GeoCommons.

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