Better Police Reports on Bike Accidents Might Save Lives

Cities need you. Support Next City and have your gift matched.Donate

Better Police Reports on Bike Accidents Might Save Lives

A new study outlines how police reports can improve bike safety.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Could inadequate police reports be contributing to the number of bicycle deaths in America’s cities? That’s what Anne Lusk, a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, says in a new study published in the journal Injury Prevention. She and her colleagues have created a blueprint for improving bike-vehicle crash reports.

Lusk said in an interview with Boston’s WBUR radio station that instead of the glib, handwritten and standard crash reports, officers should, “use electronic tablets with dropdown menus that have specific vehicle/bicycle codes, for instance, whether the bicyclist was riding inside a painted bike lane when hit, or whether the cyclist crashed into a driver’s open car door. The dropdown menu would also include other specific data like a coded vehicle picture and a coded bicycle picture. This information could then be automatically loaded onto spreadsheets for later analysis.”

Joshua Zisson, a Boston lawyer who specializes in bike-related cases and runs BikeSafeBoston, a website about bike law, told WBUR:

“The proposed changes would make a huge difference in determining what happened in a crash, and who was at fault. In the three years since I started my bike practice, I’ve seen hundreds of police reports describing bike vs. motor vehicle crashes, and I would only consider a handful of them to be well written and properly descriptive. The majority range from bad to absolutely awful (i.e., too vague, too brief, poorly illustrated, not illustrated). Giving officers better tools to describe a crash with a bike will almost certainly allow them to do a better job, as they won’t have to force their description of events into a framework designed for cars.”

These changes are critical as more and more people bike to work. According to the League of American Bicyclists, the number of commuters who bike to and from work rose about 62 percent nationwide from 2000 to 2013. These findings could be particularly helpful in a city like Boston, where officials are actively trying to improve rider safety.

Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Follow Jenn .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Tags: policebikingbike lanesbike safety

×
Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×
×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities

Join 837 other sustainers such as:

  • Joseph at $5/Month
  • Anonymous at $40/Year
  • Anonymous in Shreveport, LA at $5/Month

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $20 or $5/Month

    The 21 Best Solutions of 2021 special edition magazine

  • Donate $40 or $10/Month

    Brave New Home by Diana Lind