Help Make the Chicago Crash Browser an Even Better Tool for Change

I’m pleased to announce that the Chicago Crash Browser application is now open to the public. The tool, which I’ve been developing for almost two years, lets you look up the number of crashes where drivers struck pedestrians or cyclists at any location in Chicago. It includes crash data from 2005 to 2011. The purpose of the Chicago Crash Browser is to provide planners and engineers with the info they need to analyze where street safety investments should be made, and to educate residents and elected officials about important traffic safety issues.

The crash browser is still a work in progress, and I’ve submitted it to the Knight News Challenge to win funding to improve the application.

While the Illinois Department of Transportation hosts a crash map called Safety Data Mart, the interface is slow and difficult to use. The Chicago Crash Browser should make this information much more easily accessible.

Check out these intersections with a particularly high number of bike crashes:

And pedestrian crashes:

Streetsblog Chicago and Grid Chicago have used the tool to find crash data for our posts. Members of participatory budgeting committees in the 46th and 49th Wards (aldermen Cappleman and Moore, respectively) have also used it.

Chicago Crash Browser
The intersection of Ogden and Milwaukee in the Chicago Crash Browser.

The underlying data set, provided by IDOT, has the potential to tell us more about street safety. For example, it would be useful to compare crash data in different wards to measure the effectiveness of infrastructure improvements paid for by aldermen’s “menu money” discretionary funds.

The project needs more collaborators so it can tell more of these stories. I uploaded the source code to GitHub, where anyone can edit the code, and submitted the project to the Knight News Challenge. The Knight Foundation will distribute $5 million to a currently unspecified number of projects. If the Chicago Crash Browser is selected, I would use the money to lease a faster server (so it could map the entire state of Illinois), and pay programmers and designers to improve the application.

If you want to support the further development of the Chicago Crash Browser, you can sign up with the News Challenge competition and “applaud” the project.

  • Megan B

    Very interesting. Tracked the tricky portions of my regular commute to see if those spots were as dangerous as they seemed. Some, like Elston/Ashland had less crashes than I thought. Thanks for creating this for the community.

  • You’re welcome, Megan.

    “Danger” is a hard concept to communicate just through showing the location of crashes. How do you know if one intersection is more dangerous than another? To determine this, you’ll need to know what percentage of people are having crashes and that’s the dataset we don’t have because we don’t know how many cyclists are passing through Elston/Ashland.

  • Megan B

    Excellent point. The more people biking through an area, the more likely there will be crashes, so a comparison of crashes vs average # bicyclists would be interesting. I’ve volunteered with ATA or CDOT to do bike counts several times at intersections downtown, but not sure if they also estimate commuting numbers further out.

  • CDOT has posted some results of these bike count days but in summary only and sometimes they change up the locations so you can’t compare.

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