The LA Bike Map – submit, track, and study near misses, collisions, harassment and bike theft

By Alex Thompson
Bike collisions around USC

Bike collisions around USC

A million times a cyclist has said “wouldn’t it be great if we could track where bike collisions happen?”  Now we can.

The LA Bike Map lets cyclists submit incidents, see them displayed instantly, and study the overall pattern, dynamically, in one place.

What is LA Bike Map?

Bikeside’s LA Bike Map allows you to submit bike incidents in LA County. You can then view the incident on the maps, and see what other incidents have occurred nearby. You can submit collisions, bike theft, harassment, and near misses.  You can also examine collision data from LA from 2008.  All the 2008 data for collisions is integrated and displayed, and you can choose the time frame for the data you want to display.  Soon we’ll have data for 2007 and 2006.

Remember that driver who cut you off in slow motion, you tapped the breaks and missed their bumper by inches, and then rode off into the sunset?  The only difference in the world was that you knew you nearly bought it, and your heart leapt out of your chest for an instant.

2008 Cyclist Fatalities for Los Angeles

2008 Cyclist Fatalities for Los Angeles. There were 9.

Instead you can now put a marker on LA Bike Map describing what happened.  It seems like a small thing, but it gives us all the power to identify where near misses happen, and figure out how to stop near misses from being full on collisions.  Maybe it gives you some peace of mind too – now we can all learn from each others close calls.

Same with bike theft.  By submitting instances of bike theft, whether it’s a junk bike, Cervelo, or your lights got jacked, we can start to get a grip on a city wide problem.  Now we’ll be able to see the pattern, if there is any.  And best, it’s a public, community tool, so that if agencies aren’t responsive to our needs, we can use data from the map to argue for change.

How do I use the LA Bike Map?

Right now there are two primary ways to use the LA Bike Map.  You can report an incident or you can examine the mapping data.

Submit an incident button

Submit an incident button

To report an incident, just click the “submit an incident” button.  You’ll be redirected to a from, where you can choose what kind of incident it is, map the location, and provide some contact information.  Do all that – it’s pretty self explanatory – and then click “Submit.”  Your submission should appear on the map instantly.  If not (things are a little buggy), adjust the slider below the map to include the month for the incident you submitted, and your incident should appear.  As well, look in the List View, and you should see your incident listed.

To examine the data, just go to the main page and play with the maps.  Adjust the slider or use the drop menus above it to choose the range of months you’d like to display data for.  You can view the data by category – so try clicking different categories.  Categories can have sub-categories, but for right now only collisions has a sub-categories.  Try clicking the collisions category to get a list of sub-categories for display.

Sub-categories for display on the LA Bike Map

Sub-categories for display on the LA Bike Map

Fool around – there’s some cool stuff and there are endless data mashups we might do in the future.

A Work In Progress

LA Bike Map is very much a work in progress.  Just in the last few weeks, Paul Bringetto and Mihai Peteu have streamlined the code immensely.

There are imperfections.  There are prettier websites out there, for example.  The site is a bit clunky too, if you’re running an old PC, LA Bike Map will cripple your browser.  If you’re running something faster, you’ll probably be ok, but it does take a little while for the markers to display at times.  Browser wise, for right now, Firefox is your best bet.

Especially important, except for user submitted data, which y’all are no doubt generating right this minute, we’ve only added data for the City of LA.  So, surrounding cities are currently blank.

The 2008 LA bike involved collision data needs to be cleaned up a bit too.  The coding of the points on the map isn’t perfect; 100 or so of the 1581 incidents that will need remapping.  As of this writing, five incidents are mapping to points in Michigan.  Somehow I don’t think LAPD is really taking collision reports in Michigan winters.  More glaring, 56 incidents appear to have happened at City Hall, more than any other intersection by a factor of 10; when the Google Maps API can’t find a listed intersection in LA, it automatically maps it to 1st & Main, at the corner of City Hall.  There aren’t actually that many collisions outside City Hall.  And the Mandeville Canyon road rage attack, the most famous of 2008, is missing or not mapping correctly.

56 accidents outside City Hall?

56 accidents outside City Hall? Geo-coding error!

You might also notice that the 2008 LA data shows all the collisions taking place at intersections.  That’s because we haven’t dug into the guts of the code to figure out how to code mid block incidents en masse.

So bugs, problems, they’re going to happen.  They ARE happening!  I’m convinced that imperfect data is better than not at all.  If you notice a bug, write me at alexcthompson@gmail.com.

The Future

For the immediate future Bikeside is looking to add new data sets to LA Bike Map.  We hope to add other years of data for the City of LA, and to gradually fill in the holes for other cities – West Hollywood, Compton, Inglewood, Culver City, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica etc etc.  We also hope to collect data for bike theft from local police departments, though we expect that data to be more difficult to work with, since it is likely to be less standard.  Over time, week by week, we will enrich the maps.

For the long term future . . . well, I don’t know.  But there’s a lot of great ideas on the table.

Help Us Out

We can use all the help we can get.  If you’re a coder, we can probably find a way to plug you in.  If you’re an expert in GIS, lets pump out some cool data displays!

We also want to follow up with as many reported incidents as possible.  Bikeside could really use volunteer help in calling and writing people who report incidents, especially serious ones, to find out more about the incident.

If you want to volunteer, write me at alexcthompson@gmail.com.

Thanks!

A very special thanks is owed to Mihai Peteu, Paul Bringetto, Dr. Lyke Thompson, Tait McCarthy, LAPD Sergeant David Krumer, and LAPD Deputy Chief David Doan for making this project happen.  Mihai and Paul refined, revised and recoded the site; without them this project wouldn’t exist.  Lyke (my dad) discovered the application and pushed me to do this project.  Tait provided some key technical support.  Sgt Krumer and Sgt Doan helped with understanding and acquiring the LAPD data.

Most of all, mad props to the coders at Ushahidi who built the platform on which LA Bike Map runs.

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17 Responses to “The LA Bike Map – submit, track, and study near misses, collisions, harassment and bike theft”

  1. This is so cool! Great work guys, this is a monumentous step forward!! I just played around and was able to report an incident with ease on my phone.

  2. You guys are doing God’s work. This is the foundation upon which the future of LA transportation reform will grow. Thank you so much for this! You have contributed a new organization of information that is critical in the fight for safer streets in LA.

  3. ^^^^ Best compliment ever. We’re working hard Josef, I’m glad you like this stuff – I kinda figured you would.

  4. Great map Alex! Your hard work to make LA safer for cyclists is much, much appreciated. I want to post this map on LAist tomorrow, is it possible to embed?

  5. Really phenomenal work! Bravo.

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