John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Thousands of painful wrecks suggest that certain streets could use better safety measures.
New York is a large city that sees a large number of bike collisions. Thanks to MIT's pioneering "You Are Here" team, we now can visualize where these wrecks have occurred, and deduce problem areas that feature an unusual amount of two-wheeled carnage.
The team took collision data provided by the NYPD and geolocated it with Google Maps API to make a series of interactive maps, using orange dots to show where collisions have happened and red lines to denote roads with large clusters of wrecks. The time frame is August 2011 to February 2014, a sufficient enough period to establish a historical web of skidding tires and bodies hitting metal that stretches all across the five boroughs. The MIT guys say they created these "in the hope that those streets might be made safer for riders." (Note that they include only crashes involving physical harm, and that not everyone reports their scrape-ups to the police.)
The maps have a couple minor issues, like a tiny scattering of ghost dots in the middle of nowhere. But all in all, they're an informative peek at a world-class city's cycling-based pain and suffering, caused by distracted or impaired driving, errors in judgment, and just plain bad luck. There are also a few neat bells and whistles: graphs ranking the roadways by number of accidents, for example, and a "Street View" option revealing the landscape around each wreck site. Have a look at Brooklyn (we recommend clicking through each map so you get the full interactivity):
Of the 3,735 reported bike crashes that happened in the borough over the aforesaid time window, the majority (145) went down on Bedford Avenue. That's not so surprising given that it runs the north-south length of the borough. But length isn't always a clue; the shorter Broadway had the second-highest crash-pile at 89 (perhaps due to people trying to use it to access the Williamsburg Bridge?). Other streets with ugly cycling histories include the long and busy Atlantic Avenue, Fulton Street, and to a significantly lesser degree 18th Avenue in southwest Brooklyn.
Now consider Manhattan, with 2,653 crashes on the books and long and numerous stretches of headache streets. The two big winners for cycling mayhem are Second Avenue (189) and Broadway (174), with runner-ups including Fifth, Seventh, and Third avenues:
The Bronx and Staten Island are the places to be for safer riding (or perhaps, not running to the police when you take a spill). The former had 630 crashes, many occurring on Third Avenue, Broadway, University Avenue, and East 165th Street. The latter had 94 wrecks, most ("most" being nine in this case) on Bay Street, which leads to the Staten Island Ferry:
Finally there's Queens' horde of 3,599 accidents, with the most cropping up on 164th Street (59 crashes), Francis Lewis Boulevard (47), and 108 Street (44):
Images courtesy of MIT's "You Are Here" project