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MIT Project Maps Bike Accidents In Portland And Other U.S. Cities

OPB | April 8, 2014 3:45 a.m. | Updated: April 8, 2014 4:13 p.m. | Portland

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As it turns out, not one member of MIT Media Lab’s Social Computing Group has been to Portland, let alone lived here, but Director Sep Kamvar says the City of Roses is a good fit for the You Are Here project research.

The first map for five cities shows where bicycle accidents happened, spanning a year to a few years, and Portland being “America’s Bicycle Capital” was an easy pick for data culling. Portland’s next map will show where coffee shops are located and the walking range to the coffee shops, like the map the group already made for Cambridge.

“The idea behind the project is to give people information to shape their own cities,” Kamvar says. “Software shapes the real world by connecting people to make things easier, making things that are invisible more visible.”

If people know certain roads have more accidents, they may consider taking another route. And if entrepreneurs can see space for new coffee shops, they can help a community.

The group will publish each map as they’re completed until 100 maps are made to show different data of 100 different cities. Portland’s coffee map is due out tomorrow, but Kamvar says the group hasn’t determined all the different map categories or even all the cities yet. You’ll just have to check back.

Editor’s note: The previous story has been updated following an interview with the director of MIT Media Lab’s Social Computing Group.


With a lot of bikers in a city, you would expect a lot of accidents. But could you pinpoint where these accidents happen?

A project called You Are Here out of MIT Media Lab‘s Social Computing Group will create a map a day for the next year “… of the little things that make up life  … from the the trees we hug, to the places where we crashed our bikes, to the benches where we fell in love.”

The plan is to roll out 100 maps for 100 cities. So far, they’ve documented bike accidents in Portland, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and, of course the city where MIT is located, Cambridge, Mass. The latest map documents coffee shops in Cambridge and the walkable range to those coffee shops.

The map of bike accidents in Portland shows a visual representation of 1085 bicycle accidents between 2010 and 2013 as documented by Portland Police Department.

The Portland bike accident map is part of the MIT "You Are Here" project.

The Portland bike accident map is part of the MIT "You Are Here" project.

MIT

Each dot on the map represents where an accident happened while red lines outline streets where accidents typically happened. From the clusters, you can see that Downtown had the most accidents, no surprise there. But would have guessed that most accidents happened on Broadway?

I’ll share more information on the project when I hear back from the organizers, but in the meantime, take a look at the map. It presents insightful data and it’s fun.

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