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Using the crowd to improve cycling safety

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Using the crowd to improve cycling safety

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The last month has been a black one for those of us who regularly cycle in London.  The perilous journey’s we undertake on a daily basis were brought home by the death of a number of cyclists in November.  Barely a day seemed to go without another terrible incident being reported, one of which was very close to my home on a road I ride and walk down regularly.

The aftermath of these events has seen Transport for London clash horns with cycling groups pushing for safer environments to ride in.  The focus of these often heated discussions has centered around the number of deaths seen this year, which as mayor Boris Johnson rightly points out are in line with last year, despite more journey’s being taken by bike this year.

Whilst the number of deaths are reported (for obvious reasons), the number of near misses or accidents that go unreported are not.  Since cycling in London myself I’ve had three such incidents, the last of which required a trip to A&E, but which I suspect didn’t find its way onto official records.

In our crowdsourced age where citizens are encouraged to report pot holes in the road and various other civic problems they would like to see improved, this seems to be missing a trick.  In New York City for instance they have a website where citizens can report ‘near miss’ accidents.  These are then logged and mapped so that planners and officials (and riders) can determine patterns and take action with a deeper set of information than the tragic incidences that often represent the tip of the iceberg.

The idea is that, while the city government already maps accidents that have happened, hazardous traffic zones can be detected and resolved faster by mapping near-misses without waiting for a large number of actual accidents.

Hopefully the number of cyclists in London will continue to grow.  It makes sense to tap into the vast collective knowledge this network has about traveling in the city to try and make it safer for all.

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