It is clear that Chief Hooley understands the importance of good data to health prevention-in this case preventing cyclist injuries and deaths on the road.
What the BCU asked for in April-following the death of 22-year-old Eric Hunt in Mission Hill-and what Hooley and Boston EMS data specialist James Salvia have done, are virtually one and the same. Nearly every request we made was fulfilled, and then some! All that remains to be sorted out is how this data is analyzed, stored and sent to other city departments, including the Boston Transportation Department where it can inform improvements to road design.
Before the Boston Cyclists Union came into being and tackled this project, bicyclist and pedestrians struck by motor vehicles were lumped into the same category. So for instance, while we knew then that Massachusetts Avenue was the worst in the city for pedestrians and cyclists hit by cars, we could not tell how many of the victims on Mass Ave were cyclists and how many were pedestrians. So how could we know what to fix?
Thanks to a new “bicycle accident” check box in the EMS reporting system, the answer will become a whole lot clearer! And that is not all. We can also analyze:
- Whether or not cyclists were wearing helmets or not.
- How fast each vehicle in each accident may have been traveling.
- Details about what the patients said happened in the accidents.
- The locations of injuries.
- The potential severity of injuries.
We can also see the patient’s age and sex, which is key, pending our continuing work with the Boston Police Department on their crash reporting systems, because we may one day be able to match these EMS reports with police reports, hospital discharge records, and morbidity records in order to create a comprehensive database that provides a wealth of information about each crash. We would have detailed information from the point of impact all the way to the end of a victim’s hospital stay.
As this data is collected in the coming years, we will increasingly be able to pinpoint problem intersections in the city, as well as note which movements in those intersections are the most problematic. Looking forward three and five years, this data will be indispensable when the city begins to fine-tune its emerging bicycle network.
Working together, Boston EMS, the Boston Police Department, the Boston Public Health Commission, the Boston Transportation Department, the Boston Bikes program, and the Boston Cyclists Union can and will do their part in helping our city become America’s Cycling City!
Please, to help keep this important work going, become a member of the union today!