Harvard team helps produce city of Boston’s first Cyclist Safety Report

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Researchers from several Harvard Schools and initiatives were instrumental in developing the city of Boston’s first Cyclist Safety Report released on May 15, 2013 by Mayor Tom Menino. The report examined four years of bicycle crash incident data supplied by Boston Police and Boston EMS that will now inform city officials in their continued efforts to make Boston’s roadways safer for vulnerable users.

Dahianna Lopez, a Ph.D. student in health policy at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, conducted the bicycled and pedestrian injury research as part of her dissertation. Lopez received funding from the Boston Area Research Initiative (sponsored in part by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study) and was advised David Hemenway, professor of healthy policy and director of the Harvard Injury Control Center at the Harvard School of Public Health. Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science also provided an in-kind computer scientist to assist with data manipulation.

Key findings showed injured cyclists are less likely to be wearing a helmet than the average cyclists, a majority of incidents that resulted in injury involved motor vehicles, pedestrians comprised only 2-3% of incidents and injuries in all cyclist incidents, and key behavioral factors associated with accidents included cyclists not stopping at red lights or stop signs, cyclists riding into oncoming traffic, drivers not seeing cyclists and drivers/passengers opening doors

The city used the report to develop a series of recommendations to improve safety including helmet use, targeted safety and education campaigns, and a focus on specialized enforcement in “hot-spots.”