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Bike Crash App to Help Cyclists Report Accidents, Near-Misses

By Kelly Bauer | August 2, 2013 6:43am
 A screenshot of the bike crash map web app. Cyclists can use it to report accidents or near-misses.
A screenshot of the bike crash map web app. Cyclists can use it to report accidents or near-misses.
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Willens Law

CHICAGO — Doorings, near-misses, accidents — Matt Willens wants bicyclists to share their problems on a newly launched Web app so the city and other riders can find cycling "trouble spots."

Willens Law Offices launched the app so anyone could report close calls and accidents. In order to make a post, cyclists simply write what happened, where it happened and hit "submit." A police report, which asks for information on weather and surface conditions, can also be sent through the site.

Willens, founder and managing partner of the law practice, said he wanted to track data in real time to make it available to the public instantly.

"The government’s slow," Willens said. "The City of Chicago just published the 2012 bike crash analysis. But what it is, it’s data that was analyzed from 2005 to 2010, not 2012. So I appreciate that the city made this data public, but the difference is significant."

 A bike-friendly lawyer created the app to let cyclists report near-misses, doorings and more.
Bike Crash App to Help Cyclists Report Accidents
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The city will be able to use the map and data to see where cyclists often run into trouble, Willens said. He believes a self-reporting map like this will be especially useful because even though the city tracks reported accidents, it does not track close calls.

Peter Scales, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman, said the map was an "interesting concept," but wasn't sure how accurate its results would be.

"I think we would rely more on actual traffic accident data from the Police Department and the Illinois State Police," Scales said. "They have nearly identical things in the report that we published a month ago or so, the bicycle crash analysis ... . It has a similar heat map for crashes ... and I'm sure we'll be updating this report annually."

Willens' map has other uses: Bicyclists can also see and search through the data to see what spots they should avoid, he said.

"What I like to say is, 'An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,'" Willens said. "The more data that cyclists have, the safer we are."

According to the CDOT report, the Loop and diagonal streets that feed into it — Milwaukee Avenue, Lincoln Avenue and Clark Street — were the most common spots for crashes between 2005 and 2010.

David Milton, 45, of Hyde Park, said he narrowly avoided being doored while commuting to work Thursday morning — the kind of near-miss Willens wants people to use the application to report. Milton said he already uses the Internet to find bicycling resources, and would use Willens' app.

"I'd probably go on there and say I almost got doored on Clark," Milton said.

Brian Skaj, 31, of Pilsen, said the service could also be used to advise new cyclists. A 10-year commuter, Skaj said he's been hit four times.

"If I knew about the [bike crash map] I would use it," Skaj said.

Willens hopes to see safety improve as biking becomes more popular in Chicago.

"There's more bikes now than ever," Willens said. "I'd like the safety to increase at the same speed, or faster, than the popularity of biking."

Willens' office has looked to help bicyclists before. In June, it announced that it would donate ghost bike racks to the family members or friends of bicyclists who died in riding-related accidents.

"I think they need a voice," Willens said. "I don't claim to be a champion cyclist, but I claim to be a champion of the cyclists."