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The following recommendations are general in nature and are based upon an initial review of the data. Their purpose is to help reduce the number of accidents and to prevent the most frequent occurrences.
These findings should be made available to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, local traffic safety officers, bicycle advocacy groups and local schools for inclusion into their own programs. The results of the study should also be developed into a series of public service announcements to be aired on the radio and television. These announcements will emphasize the highest frequency accident classes (e.g. motor vehicles turning into a bicyclist's path, motor vehicles colliding with a bicyclist at an intersection) and types (e.g. parked car door openings). The purpose of the publicity is to encourage further analysis of the findings and identification of countermeasures, and to increase awareness at the most frequent accidents.
B. Additional exposure information
The foregoing discussion lacks an essential element - the measurement of risk as well as frequency. Other than Cathy Buckley's Bicycle Traffic Volumes in Metropolitan Boston, little information exists on bicycle ridership and ridership habits in the greater Boston area. Additional information should be obtained to allow an assessment of the likelihood of a specific accident type occurring to an individual, as well as the overall frequency.
The study's findings indicate high frequency accidents that can be reduced or prevented in part by education. Education has the dual goal of increasing awareness of an undesirable situation and providing the necessary skills to avoid the situation. The presence of a high proportion of accidents involving intersection collisions indicates the opportunity additional traning may offer in this area, particularly among adults, among whom these accidents occurred most often. Although this type of accident may be no riskier -- or even less risky -- than other accidents, the volume of bicyclists entering intersections on busy downtown streets could itself be responsible for the high ranking. Eliminating or reducing this type of accident would affect a large portion of accidents in the study area.
Bicyclists in the Boston area agree with Kenneth Cross' assessment that wrong-way riding occurs among bicyclists in a lower proportion than it shows up in accidents. Awareness of the role of wrong-way riding in contributing to accidents may also result in a decrease in that riding behavior and a reduction in accidents.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles can also provide motorists with information on improving their search skills in spotting bicyclists at intersections, and emphasize this in its driver's education materials.
Education and awareness are likely to improve the skills and behavior of only some bicyclists and motorists, while others may not be exposed to the education/publicity or may choose to ignore it. Law enforcement officials must impress on bicyclists in particular that wrong-way riding is illegal as well as dangerous. Currently, bicyclists are rarely cited or stopped for wrong-way riding in the Boston area.
E. Improved record keeping
Local police departments for the most part have no separate file of bicycle-motor vehicle accidents, and are thus not able to carry on an elementary classification of bicycle accidents in their own communities. Police departments should create such files and review them periodically. Similarly, the Registry of Motor Vehicles should establish a, separate file of bicycle-motor vehicle accidents to allow easy reference and analysis, and develop a campaign to obtain the cooperation of local police departments in doing the same.
F. Improved reporting
The quality of data on cyclists was markedly poorer than that on motor vehicle operators, Age of the cyclist was not reported on 26 percent of the sample reports (compared to less than 1 percent of the motor vehicle operators); situation for cyclist was not reported on 60 percent of the sample reports (compared to 8 percent for the situation on the motorists). In many cases, information on the bicyclist was only reported under the "Injured" section (see Appendix A) rather than in the "Vehicle" section, indicating that police and operators do not consistently identify the bicycle as a vehicle. In addition, information on traffic controls at the bicyclist's approach of an intersection was inaccurate on many reports (both police and operator). Anecdotal evidence also has suggested that "road surface" and "road condition" may not be reported accurately on many reports. Finally, the question on helmet use was phrased in such a way as to not allow a distinction between "No use" and no response.
In the narrative and diagram sections of the report, little information was provided on whether the bicyclist observed a stop sign. As this has been identified in the Cross report as a key variable in accident causation, it would be useful to increase reporting of this information in these sections.
Reporting could be improved in three ways. The Registry should actively encourage police and operators to solicit from and record complete information on both the motor vehicle operator and bicyclist, and to treat the bicycle as a vehicle. The Registry, MAPC and the Boston Area Bicycle Coalition should encourage bicyclists to complete reports on all motor vehicle collisions in which they are involved (less than 1 percent of the sample reports were filed by bicyclists). Finally, the Registry should consider revising the accident report form to address the problems identified above (e.g. rephrasing the helmet question; adding the phrase "including bicycles, motorcycles, mopeds" after the word "vehicle".) We would be happy to meet with the Registry to discuss and expand upon these recommendations.