How Safe Is Your Bike Route?

The Troubleshooters find and plot three years of cyclist-involved accidents

More than 600 bicyclists are involved in a crash every year in Connecticut, according to data the Troubleshooters obtained from the state Department of Transportation.

Colleen Kelly Alexander is just one of those stories.

"I remember feeling my entire body getting ripped apart, tangled and pulled underneath the truck for quite a few feet," said Alexander.

She was riding on Madison’s Boston Post Road on October 8, 2011 when a freight truck ran a stop sign.

Doctors put Alexander in a medically-induced coma for 40 days and had to reconstruct her entire lower body – 29 surgeries-worth. Three and a half years later, she still has four more surgeries to go.

Although Alexander knows her trauma was extreme, she spends much of her time advocating for cyclist safety.

The Troubleshooters found and plotted every reported accident involving a cyclist from 2012 to 2014. Boston Post Road – more commonly known as Route 1 – comes up often.

“We almost always avoid Route 1,” said Rob Rocke, who sits on the board of directors with Elm City Cycling.

Rocke says streets like Route 1, with narrow shoulders and where cars can drive fast, pose a huge safety problem for cyclists.

“I can understand people not wanting to ride [on Route 1] and not using it as their main route,” said Rocke.

He adds that New Haven has generally come a long way by adding bike lanes throughout the downtown area. However, the Troubleshooters data shows almost every intersection within three blocks of the New Haven Green has had an accident in the past three years.

“We’re just not able to meet the demand and the need with the current laws we have in the books,” said New Haven Director of Transportation Traffic and Parking Doug Hausladen.

He’s a huge proponent for SB-502, also known as the Bike Bill. If passes, it will change the language in some of the state’s statutes that, as they are, prevent cyclist-friendly streets.

“Laws such as, you must ride as far right as possible on the roadway,” said Hausladen. “That prevents any left-handed bike lanes.”

An important detail, since the data shows the vast majority of accidents occur at intersections. That translates statewide, including in Hartford, which is another hot spot.

Mayor Pedro Segarra recently took on a challenge from the U.S. Department of Transportation to create complete streets, which have bike lanes.

However, unlike New Haven, nobody in the capital city right now is in charge of making sure the streets are safe to ride. That position has been vacant for almost a year.

Regardless of where you’re riding or driving, pay extra attention. Rocke says one of the more common accidents happens when a cyclist rides on the sidewalk which is illegal in some towns – and they ride straight into an intersection.

“Motor vehicle drivers do not tend to look for cyclists on the sidewalks,” said Rocke. “So they might make a right as a cyclist plows right into them, or they plow into the cyclist.”

Connecticut drivers who hit cyclists could face up to a $1,000 fine. That’s as of last October, when the state started recognizing cyclists as “vulnerable users.”

But most of the DOT reported crash data has the cyclist at fault, so if you’re riding, do everything you can to protect yourself. Wear bright or reflective gear and have lights if it’s dark out. And always obey the rules of the road.

“And the sad thing is, a lot of cyclists don’t even know the rules,” said Alexander.

Tips for using the interactive map:

  • Zoom in on any point on the map.
  • Click on the point itself to show detailed information such as date, who was injured, who was at fault and why.
  • Points are color-coded by year.
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