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.

The Boston Police Department, in collaboration with the Boston Area Research Initiative at Harvard’ Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and the Boston Cyclists Union reviewed BPB crash data generate baseline crash estimates and maps for planning purposes.

Dahianna Lopez, a PhD 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 Dr. 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 from the report include:

  • Although the number of cyclist fatalities spiked in 2012, data shows a minimal increase in total incidents between 2010 and 2012. There was a substantial increase in ridership during this period.
  • 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.
  • Cyclist accident incidents involving and/or injuring pedestrians are minimal. Pedestrians comprised only 2-3% of incidents and injuries in all cyclist incidents.
  • 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.
  • Young adults, particularly men between 19 and 31 comprise more than half of all injured cyclists.

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.”

Read the City of Boston’s press release.