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Sneak peek at new close calls/collision reporting tool

Posted by on August 19th, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Screenshot of new crash and close call reporting tool.
(Click to enlarge)

A graduate student at Portland State University’s Center for Urban Studies has made exciting progress on a tool that will allow the community to report close calls, collisions and problem locations.

The last time I mentioned a close calls map was in January of 2006. Several months after that story I received an email from Joe Broach, a Southeast Portland resident (from Missoula Montana) who’s working on his PhD in transportation at PSU. He wanted to know if anything had come of that project. When I said no, he decided to take on the task himself.

Joe Broach
(Photo © J. Maus)

The idea was to build an online tool to capture information about collisions and near misses involving bicycles that are never reported (or are reported from a car-centric point of view).

Joe said he was first inspired to do this in the wake of the two bicycle fatalities in Portland last October. Traffic safety was front page news after those incidents and Joe said he knew the stats and graphics about crashes in the media were incomplete.

“It was frustrating, because I knew the data was limited. Cyclists know so much, they’re like pedaling databases, but that information wasn’t being captured.”

The new tool — tentatively named the Bike Safety Reporting and Analysis Tool — is integrated with Google Maps and can feasibly be used for any city or location. Users must register with a valid email address and once logged in, can fill out a simple form to record the specific details of their incident (date, time, type vehicle involved, etc…) and share a description of what happened. Users can also report “problem locations” by locating the area on the map and describing their concerns.

In addition to logging incidents and concerns, users of the tool can view existing reports (screenshot below). The incidents are color coded by type (near miss, problem location, or collision) and users can filter their view by geographic area, date incident occured, and type of incident. There is also an option to output the data via the standard Google Map view, by a text-only view, or via a comma separated value (CSV) file.

Detail of the “View Reports” screen in satellite view. Broach says he’ll add the “StreetView” when it becomes available for developers.

The potential of this tool is staggering. The data can be used any number of ways and it has been developed with standardized coding languages so it can be shared across many platforms.

Another exciting component is that, upon registration, users can opt-in to an email list giving permission to be contacted about safety research or analysis in and around locations they’ve reported on.

For example, let’s say PDOT wants to get feedback on a certain neighborhood traffic safety issue in a specific location. They could query the database and send an email to everyone who has reported a bicycle crash or near miss in that area and invite them to the meeting.

The tool is going through some final testing and will be hosted on BikePortland.org once it’s ready for prime time (it will take the place of the Close Calls reports which has over 600 comments posted in the last three years).

What do you think about this? I realize we’re not letting you really kick the tires yet, but if you have feedback or questions, Joe and I would love to hear them.

Stay tuned…

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  • bArbaroo August 19, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    This IS good information but makes me think we do focus on the bad…what about tracking the good things too. I have extra-polite interactions from motorists on almost a weekly basis. Anyone intersted in those stories?

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  • a.O August 19, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Nice work, Joe. I think this has the potential to be quite a valuable tool.

    Would anyone be interested in a feature or a separate service that would allow you to get the motorist\’s address from their license plate number and write them a letter to explain your take on the collision/close call and possibly file a citizen-initiated citation when there is a violation of the traffic code by the motorist that lead to the incident?

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  • JeffW August 19, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    I heartily welcome this tool. It will be a great benefit to our community. Joe & Jonathan, if there\’s anything I can do to help (test, donate code-monkey skills, etc), please let me know.

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  • John Lascurettes August 19, 2008 at 3:23 pm


    A tool like this would not be about \”focusing on the bad.\” It\’s about collecting data to identify problem points in the city. If there is a dense cluster of problems at one spot, that\’s data that can be used to get the city to do something about re-engineering the problem spot.

    I\’d say that\’s focusing on the good.

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  • Brad Hawkins August 19, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    City Departments of Transportation need these kinds of metrics. Otherwise, they just go off the police accident statistics and traffic theory. If we can get large enough samples and present that data in meetings, we can put together major infrastructure changes.

    Any chance this could be extended to Seattle?

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  • bahueh August 19, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Can motorists use this to report cyclists who nearly cause accidents with cars and pedestrians, blow stop signs, fail to yield right of way, etc.?

    just wonderin\’…

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  • Russell August 19, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    bArbaroo –

    While tracking the good interactions would be an interesting study, the purpose of this tool is to identify areas where there may be necessary structural/design changes. Tracking the good interactions would most likely provide data that shows areas where people are more bike tolerant rather than revealing anything about design.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 19, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    \”Can motorists use this to report cyclists…\”

    Joe and I discussed that at length. At first I thought it would be OK, but upon further review we decided that the data would be much more pure if it all came from the bicycle-riding perspective.

    Our last thought on this was to create a separate tool and brand specifically for people operating motor vehicles… and then you could do another tool for walking, etc…

    \”Any chance this could be extended to Seattle?\”

    The tool uses Google Maps and it\’s not limited in any way to just Portland. It should work just find for any city on the map.

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  • John Russell August 19, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    It says it \”can feasibly be used for any city or location,\” but does that mean it\’s only Portland at the moment? Would it still be able to take in incidents from say, Vancouver or Beaverton?

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  • Jebus August 19, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    @ bahueh

    I would only hope so! Its just too bad there isn\’t a way to identify said person on bicycle like there is with license plates for cars…

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  • brettoo August 19, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Speaking of the soon-to-be old Close Call reports, does the city use them? Any need or plans to move that data into the new system?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 19, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    \”Speaking of the soon-to-be old Close Call reports, does the city use them? Any need or plans to move that data into the new system?\”


    At one point, the City said they\’d use the Close Calls to develop a map… but as I wrote above, that project hasn\’t progressed.

    and yes, Joe has already populated the database with some of the Close Calls and we\’ll input more of them before the official launch.

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  • Cøyøte August 19, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    What an excellent project!

    My 2¢, it might be helpful to have an opinion about the source of the incident. As I reel through my personal close calls over the past 25 years I can divide them into three categories: I f&%@#-up. Someone else f&%@#-up. The problem was systemic, blind intersections, excessive speed limits, bad maintenence, etc..

    As I honestly evaluate my close calls, the 1st category is the largest for me. However,there are bad intersections or roads that have caused close calls. It seems like PDOT would be most interested in systemic or infrastructure related incidents since they would yield to engineering solutions.

    Thankfully for me, age, experience, and less beer has resolved most of my 1st category events. Hopefully Joe can easily adapt this to other cities?

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  • Kris S August 19, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Very exciting to see this type of data being collected on an ongoing basis and shared with the community in an open fashion. If it\’s as user-friendly as it sounds and cyclists start using it religiously to log incidents and close calls, this tool could be a very powerful tool to help prioritize known problem spots.

    By the way: this looks very similar to the incident mapping that the BTA has been doing with the data that came out of their bike/bus and bike/rail incident survey earlier this year. Lots of incidents for just those two categories alone… which brings up the question: will this new tool allow cyclists to report on bike crashes due to tracks or other road hazards?

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  • Captain Hook August 19, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Following up on bArbaroo\’s suggestion:

    What if in addition to reporting \”Problem locations\” you could report \”Well-designed locations\” or \”irresistible infrastructure\”?

    While politically I endorse that all routes should be safe for all modes of vehicles, in practice I am willing to make modest adjustments to my route to incorporate good, safe bike infrastructure.

    Often I find good infrastructure by using the excellent regional bike maps, but augmenting the static maps with a live geographic database sounds like a useful way to build community.

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  • Natty August 19, 2008 at 4:36 pm


    How would I get in touch with Joe Broach? This is an idea that has been floating in my head for some time, so I am delighted that someone has undertaken it.

    I would be most interested in using it here in New Brunswick and would like to talk to Joe to see if his interface is ready to support multiple locales [things like ISO dates, metric, message catalogues for other languages, etc].

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  • nahbois August 19, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    are there any safeguards against data tampering or is this all up to the honor system?

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  • baudman August 19, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    No reason why it couldn\’t be used to highlight the positives as well?

    Green dots vs red dots?

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  • Natty August 19, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    As with any self-reported sample set, I would expect the database to be subject to the biases of its audience.

    The open nature of the system, while a desirable collection method, would leave it vulnerable to manipulation {not quite as overt as ballet box stuffing, but individuals with an agenda could skew the representation of specific event types within the database.

    So, like most thinks in society, it will work better with a little honour and respect.

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  • Carissa Wodehouse August 19, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    It would be helpful if people were asked to record all the details of the incident that insurance companies use to determine fault, too. Time of day (light or dark), traffic level, if the area is lit, if they were wearing reflective gear, if they had lights, those types of things. Knowing there are a collisions in a neighborhood is one thing, knowing there are a lot of collisions at night on a certain corner could help identify problems with visibility and I bet patterns would emerge.

    It would also be very helpful to have a way to record common driver behavior in a location, such as people edging out to see around parked cars, or frequently darting out to beat traffic. I\’ve learned to anticipate how drivers will act on the roads I am familiar with, but that kind of knowledge would be invaluable to glean from other \”pedaling databases\” for neighborhoods where I don\’t know how drivers act.

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  • bArbaroo August 19, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Russell #7,
    interesting point – but how would we know without tracking data? Are you assuming measuring good experiences wouldn\’t improve design; I think it might. I believe that there may be design features that influence courteous behavir – speed limits, street width, placement of traffic control devices to name a few. It is my experience is that motorosits are more courtesous on quiet neithborhood streets, but that\’s just anecdotal. It to me feels beyond \”interesting\” to look at that side of the equation. Knowing what design elements influence safe/courteous behaviour might add a valuable dimension to the study.

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  • peejay August 19, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Great idea. I think there should be a box or two for whether the police were called, responded, cited anyone, etc.

    As for close calls, this shouldn\’t be used for every time someone in a car told you to get off the road #$%&ing biker, it should be for when there was clear risk of a collision. I\’d like to see some mechanism for adding additional comments from other registered users to existing incidents. If I witness one of the reported cases, I might be able to add extra details about that case.

    That, and a little GUI cleanup – the first part of \”will collision be reported to DMV?\” is next to the box labelled \”No collision\”, which is a little confusing, to say the least.

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  • Dr. Benjamin August 19, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Report via SMS/text message!
    You can report on life-threatening experience as you wait for the cops to show up (which they wont) and let your heart rate slow down. Or just keep riding and cause more near-crashes while you type into your phone 😉

    Any thought of integrating bike theft reporting with this interface (or as you state above, a similar but separate method)?

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  • K-Man August 19, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Is there a database field for license plates? See if there\’s some repeat offenders running around? It\’d be interesting to add a choice for harassment too.

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  • Steved August 19, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Bravo! I can\’t wait till I have a close call so I can stick a pin on the map!

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  • Hillsons August 19, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    What generally constitutes a close call?

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  • Statisticista August 19, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    How exactly will this be a \”bicyclist-only\” reporting system when, according to PDOT, 90% of Portland cyclists have driver\’s licenses? [Re: peejay] Also, will there be multiple comment fields for individual incidents? I can already see this turning into a google maps version of platewire.com…

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  • Ryan August 19, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Adding to the SMS/Text reporting, which is a great idea, there should be the ability to log license plate numbers and/or photos. I\’m sure there are great reasons to not share this with the public, but if cyclists could load this information it would be there if the police ever needed to get involved.

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  • Rich Wilson August 19, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    \”Joe and I discussed that at length. At first I thought it would be OK, but upon further review we decided that the data would be much more pure if it all came from the bicycle-riding perspective.\”

    o.k. but what about when I, as a cyclist, have a near collision with another cyclist who blows a stop sign, or is riding on the wrong side of the road?

    As for looking up license plate numbers and sending letters to people- file a police report and encourage them, strongly, to follow through with a warning letter. I used to work at an insurance agency, and looking up license plate data is privilaged information, as it should be. I\’d hate to have some crazy coming to my door just because they think I did something wrong in my car or on my bike. Let them take it to the cops and let the cops decide.

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  • KWw August 19, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Will it cross reference license plates, so that 2 or more close calls throws up a flag?

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  • scott August 19, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Wow, what a coincidence. It sort of bothered me that something like this didn\’t exist, so I put up a similar type of tool (see http://www.flatreport.com/) a couple of weeks ago.

    Mybikelane.com (http://nyc.mybikelane.com/) is another interesting site that combines Google Maps and bike advocacy.

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  • Joe Broach August 19, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Thanks for all of the comments.

    Regarding abuse of the database/data tampering (#17,#19): there is some protection in that each report is linked to a specific email address. Anyone trying to \”stuff the box\” would be pretty obvious and could be filtered by anyone analyzing the data. Like Natty mentioned, if most users respect the system, it should be fine.

    Regarding license plate tagging. The concept of the database was more to identify dangerous locations, not individuals. That said, the data will be open to everyone, so there\’s no limit on analysis. If someone wants to search descriptions for multiple plate matches, go for it!

    (#26) wrote: \”o.k. but what about when I, as a cyclist, have a near collision with another cyclist\”

    Close calls/collisions with other cyclists/peds are reportable in the current version.

    (#25) From reading the current close calls thread, it seems like there\’s a pretty consistent definition being applied by cyclists independently. I think of it as an event when the chance of a collision was pretty high. For me, it\’s a couple or a few a year kind of thing. Clearly people have different thresholds for risk, and that would be something to keep in mind using the data.

    Regarding why not track good interactions? Wow, I really hadn\’t thought of that. That\’s why community based research is so neat. Offhand, I\’m not quite sure what I\’d do with piles of happy encounters. Maybe that bike realtor could use them! If someone runs with this, it would be fun to see the results.

    I\’m out of town for a week but will try to respond to more comments when I\’m back. Once this thing is ready for public testing, there will be plenty of opportunity for input.

    joe broach

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  • KTesh August 19, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    I would love to see it have a way of reporting problem storm drains, then as they are replaced/fixed they get removed from the database until someone reports another problem with it (missing straps/broken/stollen)…

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  • ambrown August 20, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Wooo! This is fantastic! I love how the alt-transit and non-motorized transportation crowds benefit from PSU\’s urban studies/planning/transportation departments.

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  • ralphie August 20, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Collecting license information and assuming that all close calls are caused by the driver smacks of arrogance.

    There are two people involved in these incidents and both sides should be heard.

    Collect all the data you want on close calls but please refrain from being judge and jury and pointing the finger of blame, since there is more than enough to go around.

    This can be a great tool to determine areas of bad traffic engineering, it should not become a tool to beat up on drivers without a fair and equitable view.

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  • Zaphod August 20, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Ralphie (#32), I think you read that into the comments. Nowhere is it said or implied that this will be \”assuming that all close calls are caused by the driver\”

    The thrust of this seems to be to highlight infrastructure issues, which is really fantastic. This will shed light where it has previously been anecdotal or assumed. While an engineer (or intelligent layman) can analyze an intersection and point out potential problems, this tool will show us what intersections (or other elements) are actually introducing risk for cyclists.

    While I\’m not the spokesperson, my guess is that this tool is being created with the simple intent to improve cycling safety in PDX. Sounds good to me.

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  • beth h August 20, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Focusing on the bad is the only way we can better involve law enforcement when cars and bikes mix poorly. The more Portland grows, the more of these sorts of interactions we\’re bound to have. Bravo to Joe for putting something like this together.

    To focus on the good, perhaps every bike rider ought to carry a stack of brief homemade notes that say something like \”thanks for sharing the road!\” — and where/when appropriate, take the extra minute or two to hand them out when something goes right.

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  • Tom H August 20, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Joe, you do us proud (those of us who teach at PSU and who commute by bike). What great initiative. I hope you get all the funding and cooperation you need. As someone who has been in tight spots, one collision, one insane incident with a rammy motorist, and who has complained formally about one bus almost creaming me well inside the bike lane, I really like the notion of a way to collect usable data, and you are doing it. Remarkable. Last week I watched in horror as a semi-truck nearly crushed a cyclist on my commute along Interstate from NoPo, something I wish I could have reported even though there was no actual accident–we NEED what you are doing and many thanks.

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  • KT August 20, 2008 at 8:56 am

    K\’Tesh, I think that storm drains come under the infrastructure heading, in that they are part of the design of a street or intersection.

    This is an interesting idea!

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  • Me2 August 20, 2008 at 8:56 am

    This is a great tool. I\’ve been participating in a OHSU survey the past several months on bike commuting and have logged several close calls in the monthly surveys. Hopefully the OHSU researchers would be willing to share their data once the study is done. It would be a great way to populate this tool right off the bat.

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  • Brian E August 20, 2008 at 8:58 am

    I agree with Ryan #28 in regard to logging license plate numbers.

    But why not show it to the public?

    Then we could identify habitual offenders. Having the ability to search for a particular license number would be nice too. Or, maybe just identifying license numbers that have multiple complaints.

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  • ralphie August 20, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Zaphod #36,

    Yes I based the comment on the comments posted.

    Look at comment 41. All about humiliating someone in a car who doesn\’t have the ability to defend themselves against accusations.

    Coyote in post 13 made an interesting observation in that as a rider many of the close calls were his own fault.

    Any tool can be abused and here we already have people making this a tool of retribution rather than education.

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  • Lenny Anderson August 20, 2008 at 9:24 am

    My brother who is visiting up in Redmond, WA…which calls itself \”Bike capital of the NW\” What?!…reports being honked/yelled at twice in one day.
    We do need a database for license plates of motor vehicles whose operators have harassed bicyclists by honking, coming too close on purpose, etc. Maybe not a big issue in close-in Portland, but its out there. Someone, the BTA?, should be tracking those yahoos and reporting data to the authorities.

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  • K-Man August 20, 2008 at 9:50 am

    \”collecting license information and assuming that all close calls are caused by the driver smacks of arrogance.\”

    Incorrect. Single data points aren\’t going to throw up red flags. Multiple incidents can show a pattern of behavior. You get four or five from different sources over a long time period of time, that is indicative of poor behavior.

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  • K-Man August 20, 2008 at 9:56 am

    PS. Drivers already have this tool.


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  • postmoves August 20, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Doesn\’t the posting of personal information, especially with regards to the commission of a crime (which is what I belive we are talking about), without fair representation, open the door to slander?
    I see potential issues with precicely the type of fringe contingent that have flooded these boards with misinformation to further their agenda (anyone remember the posts on Latasha Williams or Karl Hugo?).
    Jonathan, I believe this type of one-sided accounting does little to forward your refrain of harmony and could amount to facilitating both personal attacks and vigilanteism.
    And though I am no lawyer, I would consider you an accomplice should a \’retributive\’ attack occur.
    It took major legaslative action to occur for Megan\’s Law, and those are convicted scum.
    Would like to hear how the true law enforcement contingent feel about this. I generally consider myself a libertarian, and believe there are enough laws on the books regarding conduct in general, that we fund the administration of those laws by way of taxation in the form of law enforcement, and see a distinction between calling out dangerous paths, etc. and passing judgement without due process.
    There are nuts out there who will twist and use any info provided to further their agenda (probably even this post :).

    Just askin\’

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  • K-Man August 20, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Re: postmoves 46

    Some of these issues have been discussed in this article:


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  • Brian E August 20, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Post moves #46

    Don\’t we have the right to assemble and discuss things with other individuals and to collectively express, promote, pursue and defend our common interests?

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  • TheAndy August 20, 2008 at 10:24 am

    light that puppy up. great idea. i was going to open up a twitter feed where you could text in license no\’s or other info for close calls. this idea\’s much more robust, more useful.

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  • bikieboy August 20, 2008 at 10:25 am

    this looks great! — though I\’d encourage keeping the actual crash reporting well-separated from the far more subjective \”close calls\”, which is very much in the eye & mind of the beholder. Crashes leave physical evidence, however slight or major, while the \”close call\” category is entirely interpretive.

    Not that close calls don\’t happen…or that a venue for reporting them isn\’t useful.

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  • FredLf August 20, 2008 at 10:32 am

    This certainly seems like it could be very useful, but like others, I\’m wondering if there could be tampering that masquerades as legit data, similar to what happens on wikipedia when an interest group gains control of editorship over a controversial topic (e.g. Israel). I can imagine over-zealous bike activists adding close calls that didn\’t really happen just to skew the numbers. Just getting an email addy from the reporters doesn\’t seem like enough of a safeguard against that. One can sign up for gmail, hotmail, etc. all day long.

    Anyway, I\’m sure y\’all have thought about this stuff. Thanks for your work, Joe. Few things in life are more thankless than being a grad student, so THANK YOU!

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  • postmoves August 20, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Thanks K-Man.
    It does answer a few of my questions, though they seem pretty untested, and admit that \”Perhaps it will get so we only show the license plate numbers to registered PlateWire members. It\’s still evolving.\”
    And, I would venture that we are talking apples and oranges, as we are talking mixed transportation issues in a time of turbulence.
    Legalities aside, like so many other issues, I still question the spirit and need for such a single-sided tool with the large potential for abuse.

    Brian E – absoultely, that\’s what we\’re doing right now, but that wasn\’t the point – which was the unrepresented.

    bikieboy – I like that! Crashes can be reported, instead of the others that are subjective editorials.

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  • Forseti August 20, 2008 at 10:46 am

    postmoves (#46), you seem to have several misconceptions about the law:

    1. The State restricts access to \”personal information,\” as it defines that term. License plate numbers are not \”personal information\” and you cannot obtain personal information from the DMV by giving them a license plate number without a declared legitimate purpose (e.g., civil litigation) and obtaining such information normally requires an attorney.

    2. Traffic code violations are not crimes.

    3. Slander requires a statement of fact (not opinion) and some demonstrated damage to reputation that was somehow harmful to the plaintiff. For example, if I said, \”This framebuilder\’s frames are always cracked,\” and he was able to show my statement caused him to lose business, he would have a claim of slander against me. A statement such as, \”This guy illegally cut me off!\” would be extremely unlikely to damage someone\’s reputation, unless perhaps they are a commercial driver. Then they\’d have to show it wasn\’t true. But me saying \”you cut me off\” is an opinion and so not within the realm of slander. God bless the First Amendment! So slander is not really an issue here.

    4. Bloggers cannot be held liable for the slanderous statements of their posters. And providing information to someone about an event that occurred in public does not make you an accomplice to someone else\’s crime and you would have no liability for the acts of someone else unless possibly you know they are going to use the information to commit the crime. God bless common sense!

    I hope that this information will cause you to re-assess the seriousness of your concerns given that, according to your post, they were based on misconceptions about the applicable law.

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  • wsbob August 20, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I think it\’s right to be concerned about possible vigilantism that could occur from possible misuse of a tool like this, but making a direct conclusion that this is going to happen is premature.

    There might be people that will try to muck up or skew the data associated with a certain license plate number, but it seems as though the greater interest for most people will be in studying whether this tool really can effectively and accurately highlight dangerous drivers, close calls and traffic situations.

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  • postmoves August 20, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Thanks Forseti for further clarifying the already clear understanding that this may all be legal – I was addressing the cross referencing of personal info that was proferred in posts #2, and merely piling on. (I do, however see holes in your \’points\’.)
    Again, I was raising the maybe more important moral and ethical issues beyond that of legality. And I am not sure where you live, but if word got around around, even falsely, in my community of Hawthorne that a driver was reckless, there could be serious discomfort and damage to ones reputation and standing amongst our neighbors, possibly affecting employment, etc.

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  • Forseti August 20, 2008 at 11:19 am

    \”I was raising the maybe more important moral and ethical issues beyond that of legality.\”

    Really? Because when you mentnioned \”personal information,\” \”slander,\” \”crime,\” \”vigilanteism,\” \”retributive attack,\” mentioned that you \”would consider [Jonathan] an accomplice\” to a \”crime\” committed by someone who found information on his website, and gave the disclaimer, \”though I am no lawyer,\” I could have sworn you were talking about the law and legal issues here.

    I guess that was my mistake.

    I guess I\’m not sure what your concern is. Just so you know, there is no such thing as an \”objective editorial\” and \”subjective editorials\” are published in newspapers, blogs, and on TV and radio every day.

    Are you against people expressing their opinion on others\’ behavior on the roadway? Or are you concerned that people might actually have to defend those actions? Or something else?

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  • Maria(in pink) August 20, 2008 at 11:32 am

    WOW! Yes! I would love to see this.

    Sorry, but I don\’t think the positive stuff matters in this context. Maybe someone could start a separate database of positive, Cumbiyah (sp?) moments but this incident map would help prevent problems.

    Think of the crime map the City of Portland puts out. No one reports lack of crime, but you can see where less crime is just by courtesy of fewer red dots in that neighborhood.

    One day, maybe the incident map could help the bike map developers map out better or different routes (that is, until ODOT repairs the troublesome intersection etc).

    Thank you, Joe Broach for seeing an opportunity and proactively jumping on it! KUDOS to you!

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  • ralphie August 20, 2008 at 11:34 am

    That\’s the problem, opinion vs fact.

    Fact: there was a close call between myself on a bike and a car at the intersection of SE 82nd and Division.

    Opinion: the driver of the car was at fault driving a green Ford Focus with license plate Oregon XXX-123 (share the road).

    Let the site be used for what it is meant to be used for, collecting points of information with regards to close calls and not guilt or innocence.

    Let\’s not forget how quickly cyclists turned on Colin Yates, the victim of an assault simply because he was the one driving the car.

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  • Forseti August 20, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Ralphie, I am free – yes as in \”freedom of expression\” – to express my opinions of others. And I\’m going to do that. If you don\’t like that, then you are also free to express a different opinion.

    Go check the 600+ close calls here on bikeportland, many of which include license plate numbers, and tell me how many times the driver has been attacked or blamed or lost a job. Your hysterical overreaction is baseless.

    Your stereotype of \”cyclists\” is not appreciated because it is an unfair generalization. Take a other social category and substitute it for \”cyclists\” and see how it sounds in that sentance. This is the same reasoning that, when used in other contexts, is racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. It\’s not acceptable with \”cyclists\” either because it\’s bad logic.

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  • jack August 20, 2008 at 11:56 am

    forseti settle down, post was obviously trying to point out the bad idea suggested in post #2 of having a methodology of connecting personal info from liscense plate #\’s. he has a legitimate concern that this would have a witchhunt or fringe freakout out event.

    including liscense plate #\’s, whatever

    providing a methodology for connecting liscense plate #\’s to home address, prob not a good idea

    remember what happened when a twitter comment was brought in here out of context and personal info was exposed, jonathon had go all \’settle down hippies\’ on us and actual harrasment at home and possibly at site of employment occured to the individual who was not myra.

    of course this is all irrelavant since its not in the application dev plans, but just a suggestion by a.O

    cool tool, nice project, look forward to seeing the beta

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  • postmoves August 20, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Not defending stereotypes, but…

    \”And, as fast as McAtee hit the ground, nearly a dozen people — many bicyclists who were riding by and noticed the commotion — swarmed around Yates, shoving cell phone cameras about a foot from his face and accusing him of roughing up the bicyclist.\”, not to mention the initial attacks of trolling posters.

    I think you Forseti, once again, cherry picked, and therefore detracted from ralphie\’s greater contextual meaning.
    And I could substitute \’cyclists\’ for \’bloggers\’, \’trolls\’, \’pizza eaters\’, \’drunks\’…
    And I hardly see the cyclists on the same plane as the oppressed minorities needing equal rights protection, just equal protections under existing laws.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 20, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    you\’ve all made your points and opinions about this issue of privacy and blame well-known. Thank you.

    I feel like this is getting a bit too much into proving points and not enough about discussing the pros/cons/feedback of the tool.

    not saying this isn\’t important, but just throwing out a cautionary note that as a thread devolves into winning arguments over sticking to the topic, other readers tend to go away… thus making the entire thread less effective and less valuable to the community.


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  • LL August 20, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    I would like to point out that just because you have a license plate number, doesn\’t mean you have the same driver involved in the close calls.

    As an example, I would offer the case of my grandfather\’s truck, which is routinely driven by: my grandfather; my mother; my brother; myself; my male cousin (24); my female cousin (20); and my other male cousin (17).

    While that might be an extreme example, it doesn\’t strike me as particularly unusual for 2, 3, 4 or more members of a family to take turns driving the same vehicle.

    So how do you differentiate drivers? Would you include a driver\’s description? Because that idea bothers me even more than just the license plate numbers.

    I agree that this will be a great tool to help get rid of problem locations and encourage safety. I just don\’t think publicly tracking drivers\’ license numbers contributes meaningfully to that.

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  • ralphie August 20, 2008 at 1:02 pm


    As someone who makes their living from cycling I take very seriously any situation which marginalizes cycling, be that by drivers or by cyclists themselves.

    My ability to pay the bills is directly tied to cycling being accepted in society as not just a leisure activity but as a legitimate form of transportation.

    I take cycling and how cyclists are viewed very seriously, and that\’s why I feel that an alternative view to some of the more vehement anti-car positions on this blog is needed.

    I never blamed every cyclist for every close call, just pointed out that there are two sides to every story.

    Just to back up the my view of the possibility of retribution against drivers, we don\’t have to look too far back in the past to find one Adam Leckie, who decided that keying a car was suitable recompense for being yelled at to wear a helmet. This of course led to less than stellar actions by both the passenger in the car, Patrick Schrepping and Adam Leckie which led to charges being laid.

    While it is an isolated incident it does show that some people in expressing their opinion do get out of hand and overstep the bounds of civility. Providing license plates and associated personal information, based on one side of an issue, is a slippery slope that can lead to such abuses.

    If you feel a crime has been committed, take it to the police or contact a.O. who can help you with filing a citizens complaint.

    I don\’t have any problems with the intended use of the website in this article, but do have reservations about possible abuse.

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  • Bikerchick August 20, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I think this is great. I used to work for the City (Water, PDOT and BES)and I can tell you to get anything fixed (grates, manholes, potholes, bad intersection problems, rough pavement, etc.)the City needs hard data. For the working Engineers and their immediate supervisors, the excuse is \’no proof\’ and then \’no money\’ and then \’we can\’t get money without hard factual data\’. I think this database can help fix a lot of the small chronic problems we face and will help us lobby City Council, PDOT and ODOT to fix the larger infrastructural issues. (Joe – I have skills that may be of use to you – I would love to help you with this project).

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  • Brian E August 20, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    I would like to commend Mr. Broach on the marvelous job and developed a great tool.

    My personal agenda (identifying habitual offender vehicle) is reflected in the comments I posted earlier. I would like to someday see a tool makes the Portland Metro area seem more like a small neighborhood. In a small neighborhood everyone can see and recognize a problem vehicle. And that guy \”vehicle\” will probably have better behavior because we all know who they are.

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  • Eileen August 20, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    I think the idea of tagging drivers by their license plate numbers is not going to fly for a LOT of reasons. I believe that DMV already has a tip line you can call if you see someone driving recklessly. Thinking you are going to get to see other people\’s driving records or even get their name/address is never going to happen. People have a right to privacy. The idea of sending a threatening letter (it will be perceived that way no matter how friendly you try to word it) to an individual with whom you have a close call but have never met is opening some weird doors.

    It seems to me that the point of this program right now should limit itself to gathering data and getting insights into dangerous traffic situations. I\’m sure 99% of traffic violations go unreported and I think we all need to just take a deep breath and accept that fact, as frustrating as that may be.

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  • matt picio August 20, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    So, when does it go live? I just got in a collision with a car about 90 minutes ago, and I\’m ready to report it.

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson August 20, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    CSV files are often problematic to import. Tell him that I\’d volunteer to write a spreadsheet export cgi script, or similar tool. I wrote a tool to connect to databases, and output spreadsheets for work, so I already know how to do it.

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  • Zaphod August 21, 2008 at 9:35 am

    While I think that this system will generally *not* be abused, it would be easy enough to purge a particular user\’s entries assuming the IP address is tracked. Surely this could be defeated as well by a tech savvy person but the likelihood for tainted data will approach zero.

    While I hope this is used as a mechanism to prioritize and justify projects to improve safety, I also see another benefit. If I\’m planning a route with the family, I might review the database and avoid any hotspots of activity or just read up on the types of incidents and be vigilant to \”watch out for busses here\” or \”motorists run this stop sign frequently\” etc.

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  • Carissa Wodehouse August 21, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Most of these comments seem to think the value of this system is reporting a single driver, via license plate, as a way of shaming them or somehow alerting authorities. That\’s not helpful to me as a public tool. That reporting system exists, and the only useful information would be the location. But we\’re talking about moving vehicles and moving bicycles, so without further description of the area and the logistics of the incident (direction traveled, visibility from both sides, lighting) it\’s not very useful because that biker and that vehicle will not be in the same place under the same conditions together again, thus the data on individuals (drivers and bikers) isn\’t serving a purpose. The data on the location is the useful part. It sounds like people would use and abuse it to seek vengeance by public shaming. And that tool exists elsewhere, and can be highly effective (iparkedinabikelane.org being my fav), but could very quickly make this data full of nit picking. Kinda like these comment threads.

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  • […] calls google maps This is a very promising program. GA_googleFillSlot(\”Forum_Rectangle\”); (Support Ecomodder.com & […]

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  • Travis Wittwer September 23, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Wonderfully exciting idea. I am looking forward to more on this. Please do a short piece on it once it is up and running to remind your readers that it is there. I agree, the possibilities for seeing trends or patterns will be enlightening.

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