You swerve to miss a door swung open into your path; stop just in time to avoid a driver turning in front of you; bunny hop over a huge pothole in your way. Close calls are a certainty when biking in Chicago. They can leave you shaking your head. They can make your heart pound, and a certain part of your nether regions pucker.
Not every bicyclist responds the same way to having a near brush with injury. Some will shrug it off. Some will learn from it. Others may place their bikes in the garage. . . for good.
Close calls are important. Understanding when, where, how and how frequently they occur is important to gain a more complete appreciation for how safe cycling really is in Chicago.
"Actual crashes only tell part of the story," said Anne Alt, president of the Chicago Cycling Club. "Learning about close call incidents provides a more detailed picture of biking in the city." (Full disclosure: Anne is a paralegal at our firm.)
There is a new effort underway to document cycling close calls. Chicago bicycle advocates Steven Vance and Gin Kilgore have created a website to track bikers' brushes with near bang-ups. Cyclists can go the the simply named site, Close Calls, and document their incidents in their own words.
In a statement on the website, Steven and Gin explain, "The purpose of Close Calls is to collect data about cyclists’ encounters with inattentive and reckless driving, as well as poorly designed and maintained infrastructure. These close calls, while not physically injurious, contribute to perceptions that Chicago’s streets are not safe or comfortable for cycling, which in turn compromises efforts to get more people on bikes."
They hope that,"This data will help identify “hot spots” that need attention–whether through targeted enforcement, education or roadway modifications."