Last Tuesday a friend of mine called me around 6 PM to describe that he had just witnessed a cyclist get involved in a collision with an automobile at Canal Street and Kinzie Street. From my friend’s point of view (which was a couple hundred feet west of the intersection), the cyclist was turning left from westbound Kinzie Street (after exiting the bridge) onto southbound Canal Street. The driver was traveling east on Kinzie Street.
My friend approached the scene and asked the driver to pull over and exchange information with the cyclist. The driver moved her car to Canal Street. My friend then met with the fallen cyclist and talked him through all of the steps of things to do after a crash:
- Call police and file a crash report
- Keep calm (this is probably the hardest part and I have no doubt that my friend’s presence here served to reassure the cyclist that they were not alone in this crash). This includes not talking about who might be at fault.
- Get witness information
- Preserve evidence; get information from the other parties; take pictures (my friend photographed the driver involved)
- Take care of yourself, get medical attention (this cyclist didn’t want it when asked by the 911 operator)
From the way my friend told me the story, it seems that the cyclist who crashed wasn’t sure of what they should do after the collision. I’m glad my friend did. He and I have talked about it many times; we have it listed on Moving Design spoke cards on our bikes, and it’s on the back of the blue Get Lit flyer.
It is important to report each and every crash. Do it for dooring-type crashes, too. Do it at a police station later if you don’t want to wait around for an officer to show up at the scene (although this is better). I asked Twitter for some help in figuring out how many bike crashes go unreported. In my quick review of all the articles and studies people sent me, it seems that crashes that result in serious injury are more likely to be reported. One study concluded the following about car and bicycle reporting rates (for all countries it surveyed):
- 95 percent for fatal injuries
- 70 percent for serious injuries (admitted to hospital)
- 25 percent for slight injuries (treated as outpatients)
- 10 percent for very slight injuries (treated outside hospitals)
It also said that “reporting is highest for car occupants and lowest for cyclists. In particular, single-vehicle bicycle accidents are very rarely reported in official road accident statistics.” The study was by Rune Elvik and Anne Borger Mysen from Oslo, Norway. Another study, this one of hospital visit records in California, New York, and North Carolina, by Jane Stutts and William Hunter found
…the only factor found to be associated with police reporting of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes was the severity level of the injury: bicyclists who were hospitalized or killed were 1.4 times more likely to be reported on the state crash files than were bicyclists receiving emergency room treatment only. [For pedestrian crash reporting, age was a factor.]
Even though the reported crash will likely end up as a dot on a map, those dots mean that something about that place is not right and that it should be looked at to see how the street can be redesigned to mitigate conflicts. If all crashes were reported, the map may have 5 times as many dots. High bike crash locations (based on reports to police) include the following (data period 2007-2010):
- Elston, Damen, Fullerton – see the changes occurring there in several years
- Milwaukee, Paulina
- Chicago, Halsted
- Milwaukee, Chicago, Ogden
- Milwaukee, North, Damen
- Cortland, Ashland
- Montrose and the Lakefront Trail
- Milwaukee, Armitage, Western
- Damen, Clybourn, Diversey
- Clark, Halsted, Barry
How many crashes have you been involved in and didn’t report?
N.B. If you’re cycling west in the Kinzie Street bike lane and you want to turn left onto southbound Canal Street, the street design doesn’t give you any clues as to how to do that. From the way the bollards are positioned and the pavement striped, it appears that you’re not allowed to make a left turn. To make a left turn, position yourself in the travel lane, make a complete stop at the stop bar, wait for the intersection to clear, and make a left turn. A box turn would probably not work here as the intersection is mostly treated like a three-way T intersection; the residential driveway entrance at the north side has such little traffic and isn’t very integrated into the intersection.
Updated 10:50 with list of top 10 bike crash locations in Chicago according to analysis with GIS software by Nabil Nazha and myself.