Tagupdate

Bike crash reporting tool: I receive a response to my FOIA request

UPDATE 12-15-10: I forgot to add that the letter stated that the Freedom of Information Act doesn’t require the responding agency to create new datasets or records where one doesn’t already exist. This means that if what you ask for doesn’t exist in their databases or file cabinets, the agency is not about to filter or search through existing data to create a custom set for you.

I continue to prepare to create a bicycle crash reporting tool (or web application). Here are the previous posts. Readers have sent me many great suggestions and concerns about how to create it, what data to use, and how to present such data. I don’t expect to begin any demonstrable work on this until mid-January when I return from my 21-day European vacation.

Today I received a response letter from the Chicago Police Department regarding my recent FOIA request for bicycle crash data.

This was disappointing: “After a thorough search, it was determined that the Department has no existing record responsive to your request.” I thought, “that doesn’t seem right. They don’t make reports on bicycle crashes?”

Police respond to a bicycle crash in Newberg, Oregon. Photo by Matt Haughey.

The letter later states, “The Department  does not currently possess a record which aggregates bicycle crash data.” Ah, this means something now. It seems that while the Chicago Police Department does make reports on bicycle crashes, it doesn’t keep a running tally or stored database query which it can use to produce the data I want – what I want would require a little more work, I guess.

The final paragraph does recommend that I contact the Illinois Department of Transportation Division of Traffic Safety’s Crash Reporting Section, where the police forward their reports. It turns out that I already received crash data on IDOT and I’m “playing around with it” using Google’s Fusion Tables.

More on Cities and Bicycles Forum with David Byrne

I want to add more about the Cities and Bicycles Forum from Friday, June 18, 2010, with David Byrne and three Chicago-based speakers.

Randy sent me his presentation’s script and PowerPoint files (download the 4 MB PDF version). So you can either watch the video of him announcing 10 (really 9) ideas for Chicago and bikes, or you can read it.

David Byrne, Luann Hamilton, Jacky Grimshaw, and Randy Neufeld during the question and answer period.

Additionally, I want to link to Brian’s take on the event. Brian Morrissey is not a “bike insider” (I’m probably such a person), although he reverse commutes to the suburbs on his bike, races for xXx Racing-Athletico, and writes about it. Afterwards, check out John Greenfield’s article on New City for a summary of all four presentations.

Demonstrating off-street (on-sidewalk) bike parking in Chicago.

Update on GIS information for Haiti

We all woke up this morning to see news that another earthquake has happened in Haiti, near the center of the first one eight days ago.

“The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) employed nearly 400 Haitians in cash-for-work activities to jump start the local economy and facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance.”

This post is an update to my previous article about how GIS is used for disaster relief efforts. I recently came across a webpage on Harvard’s China Earthquake Geospatial Research Portal that lists copious, up-to-date, GIS-compatible data from organizations around the world. The portal began in response to the Sichuan, China, earthquake in May 2008.

Visit the Haiti GIS Data Portal now.

For new GIS students, this would be a great starting point for a class final project. The Portal is hosting the datasets as a public service and invites anyone with relevant data to submit it to the site operators for wider dissemination. Data comes from the United Nations, several universities, OpenStreetMap contributors, and the German Center for Air and Space Travel, among others.

“Petty Officer 3rd Class Cameron Croteau, a Damage Controlman aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Oak, carries an injured Haitian girl to an awaiting Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. Coast Guard and Navy helicopters airlifted injured Haitians to a private hospital in Milot, Haiti. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandyn Hill.”

As I mentioned in the previous post, there are many photos on Flickr when you search for “haiti earthquake.” When I wrote the post on January 14, 2010, there were only about 300 photos, and now there are over 6,900. Only 1,200 have a Creative Commons license, though (both of the photos above have a Creative Commons license). It seems that the United States Military, the United Nations, and major relief organizations are providing the majority of photos. And they’re uploading them fast. The number of photos on Flickr jumped by 50 from when I started this paragraph.

Update on Federal Borrowed Bus Program

A colleague at work pointed me to a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report titled, “Olympic Games: Federal Government Provides Significant Funding and Support,” which gives a little more explanation about the so-called “Federal Borrowed Bus Program” I wrote about in the previous post.

The report was published in September 2000. The most relevant part says, “[U.S. Department of Transportation] provided approximately $17 million to state and local transit and transit planning agencies to pay for the delivery, operation, and return of the 1,500 buses, which were borrowed from communities throughout the United States.”

I’m glad to know my question, “What is the federal borrowed bus program?”, has been partially answered. I’d like to know more about it, including how the funding is appropriated (is it in Congressional legislation or within the Department?), which communities provided buses to borrow, and the attitudes of the lending agencies about this program.

Other sections in the report my colleague pointed out:

  • “Another 1,000 troops were also used as bus drivers to transport athletes, coaches, officials, and military and law enforcement personnel to various Olympic venues. According to DOD [Department of Defense] officials, military personnel were used as bus drivers because ACOG [Atlanta Committee of the Olympic Games] and local law enforcement agencies could not provide them. The estimated cost to provide the military bus and van drivers was $978,450, including $105,800 for commercial drivers’ licenses and $300,000 for training.” (Page 31)
  • “EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] provided about $313,000 to build a bike path to access the Olympic Centennial Park area and about $7 million for sewer system construction related to the Olympic stadium.” (Page 33)

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