*Cycling advocates seek to plot safer city routes online*
AN online tool designed to make cyclists feel safer while navigating Winnipeg streets is encouraging them to record collisions and hazards; and BikeMaps.org will make the locations public to help others identify more secure routes. The Winnipeg Trails Association and Bike Winnipeg partnered with BikeMaps.org to crowdsource the data and record incidents that aren’t always reported to police or filed as insurance claims.
“You just hit the button and it leads you to a series of questions... that don’t get asked typically if you were reporting an incident to the police or if you make a claim,” association executive director Anders Swanson said Wednesday.
The hope is, by making the streets safer, more people will start cycling.
“If you look at your life expectancy, someone who rides a bike is going to live longer,” Swanson said. “But you’re (also) exposed to trauma, unnecessarily… There is a big barrier to people who would like to ride, but don’t feel safe.”
BikeMaps.org offers cyclists the chance to tell the story of their close calls, Swanson said.
People can report collisions, falls, near-misses and thefts on the website or via their smartphones, and cyclists can see where others have reported problems and take precautions, if need be.
Eric Reder of Winnipeg had a scare Tuesday that he posted about in detail on Twitter, but the website’s data probably wouldn’t have helped him, he said.
“I got hit by a semi while on my bike in downtown Winnipeg yesterday. I’m not hurt. But the semi did it on purpose and the police didn’t much care. So I’m angry,” Reder tweeted.
In an interview, Reder said he was on Portage Avenue at Smith Street just before 11:30 a.m. when a trucker honked at him to get out of the way. Reder didn’t; instead, he yelled at the trucker.
Reder said the trucker popped his clutch and ran over Reder’s bike — while he was on it.
“I jumped off my bike... It’s just lucky it didn’t happen to someone more vulnerable, like my 11-year-old son I’m trying to teach how to ride the roads,” Reder said.
Changing to a safer route isn’t an option as the incident happened close to his office, the environmentalist said.
Designed by University of Victoria geographers to fill in the gaps in reports on collisions and falls for commuters navigating urban traffic, BikeMaps.org has collected 7,800 reports worldwide since it went live in 2014.
Winnipeg is the latest Canadian city to sign on. Trail associations and bike groups have brought the online tool to Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Whitehorse, Lethbridge, Alta., Guelph, Ont., St. John’s, N.L., and Ottawa.
It also used in Reykjavik, Iceland.
“The data’s had an impact in cities where it’s used,” said Karen Laberee, executive director of BikeMaps.org at the University of Victoria.
“There are some easy wins to be had,” Laberee said.
“What we do notice in cities that have been using it is (that) some of them are using the data to identify places where they can make some fixes. Sometimes, they’ve been able to make some easy fixes.”
An average of two cyclists are killed in the province each year, figures from Manitoba Public Insurance show.
Winnipeg Trails hopes to take the data recorded to the city’s public works active transportation advisory committee to address any concerns.