Focusing In on Vision Zero
Cyclist and Pedestrian Injury Rates from 2013 through 2018
By David Galt
May 2, 2019
Recently, I was reading Peter Flax’s amazing article in Bicycling Magazine updating us on what has happened in the year since Frederick “Woon” Frazier was killed in a hit-and-run riding from his home in South Central. I never knew Woon although I had ridden with his club, Chief Lunes on occasion. It got me thinking that I should use my experience as a GIS analyst to at least shine some light on how the City of Los Angeles is not improving when it comes to the safety of its citizens on its public streets.
Ten years ago, I was creating crash maps and injury reports to assist New York City DOT's Bike and Pedestrian unit in what became a period of renaissance for biking in the city. Other U.S. cities including Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, and San Francisco have made the improvements and been rewarded with large declines in injury rates. Los Angeles has not. We deserve better. Woon and all the victims of our political leader's complacency deserved better. We are now more than four years into the Vision Zero goal of reducing the number of fatalities and serious injuries to 0 by 2025, so now seems like a good time to analyze our progress toward that goal.
Below I have created scatterplot graphs for each City Council district that show the number of injuries to cyclists and pedestrians each month over the last 6 years, in each Council District and then finally for the city as a whole. Each graph includes a trendline showing (in most cases) the decline or stagnation resulting from the city’s half-hearted improvements. While the media often focuses on fatalities, injuries paint a truer picture of the health of our streets simply because they are far greater in number--and thus more statistically significant. In the final graph that shows the numbers for the whole city, you’ll note that there are more than 400 reported cyclist and pedestrian injuries each month in the city. Think about that, 400! More than 10 reported per day. More than 5,000 a year. This is the cost of not following the clear example of other cities who are no better or more deserving than us.
Each dot below represents 1 of 72 months over the span of the 6 year period. The numbers on the left indicate the number of injuries that occurred to cyclists and pedestrians during that month.
As you can see from the data, we are not on our way to Vision Zero’s goal of no deaths and major injuries on our streets. In fact, for the vast majority of the city, we are heading in the opposite direction. With few exceptions, the areas with the lowest median household incomes have the highest injury rates, but this is not just a rich/poor issue as injury rates are increasing across the board.
While the lower income communities south of the 10, get a disproportionate share of injuries and deaths income is not the only factor affecting crash rates and police response to those crashes. Additional numbers analysis of the City of LA's collision/injury data revealed that race plays a role, or more specifically that black cyclists and pedestrians in Los Angeles are at more risk to injury, and when they are injured their wellbeing is not taking as seriously by responding police.
Cycling While Black in Los Angeles
According to the latest US Census, African Americans make up 8.9% of the population in LA, but the LAPD reports that they account for 21% of the fatalities and 18.9% of serious injuries that require immediate medical intervention. Put simply, if you are African American your risk of dying or being badly hurt while biking or walking is more than double.
In addition to tracking deaths and serious injuries, the LAPD reports 2 other injury severity types. In type B the responding officer observes an injury on the victim. In type C the officer doesn’t see any injury but reports that the victim claims to have an injury or be in pain.
For those cyclists/pedestrians lucky enough to escape death and serious injury the LAPD reported that the responding officer observed an injury to the victim 46% of the time. Broken down by race, if the victim was white police observed more injuries to the tune of 53%. Latinos: 47%. Asians: 46%, but if you were black police observed an injury only 38% of the time.
To summarize, African Americans are more than twice as likely to be killed or seriously injured when they choose to bike or walk in LA, and if they don’t end up dead or in the hospital, police, for some reason are much less likely to see any injury at all after they have been struck by a moving vehicle weighing several thousand pounds.
All of the information that was used in this report was downloaded from the City of Los Angeles Open Data website.
If you have anything you would like me to show, or explore in this data or any questions or comments feel free to contact me here.
#mapping #biking #losangeles #safestreets #bikemonth #gis #visionzero