Monday, November 19, 2007

Bicycling advocacy and public safety

CQ Press has released their annual city crime rankings for US cities. Using crime statistics data from the FBI and using proprietary weighting factors, CQ created their rankings of the safest and most dangerous cities in America.

The 10 most dangerous cities are:
    1. Detroit, Michigan
    2. St. Louis, Missouri
    3. Flint, Michigan
    4. Oakland, California
    5. Camden, New Jersey
    6. Birmingham, Alabama
    7. North Charleston, South Carolina
    8. Memphis, Tennessee
    9. Richmond, California
    10. Cleveland, Ohio
I think it's safe to say that you don't see these cities mentioned as bicycle friendly communities. While the rankings are controversial, I think an important component of encouraging cycling is ensuring a safe riding environment. Nobody wants to ride their bikes down city streets if they perceive a problem with public safety.

I've had a close friend who's a cop advise me to carry a handgun with me because of my commute route, but I've never had any problems during nearly 20 years of commuting by bike through sometimes marginally sketchy neighborhoods. Female friends in particular sometimes seem more aware of personal safety issues when it comes to bicycling, which I can understand.

If you need to decide on the safety of your cycling route, I've listed some online crime maps that outline the level of crime in various cities in the United States. Many many more crime maps are available; just search for "your city crime map. Note that many of these crime maps show *all* crimes in the area, including many that may not directly affect passing cyclists such as domestic disturbances, random vandalism, and even car burglaries. Before you're surprised by the amount of crime in your area, pay attention also to the time span shown.


  1. I find those maps nice 'cause it's useful to know where around me things like burglaries have happened, having nothing to do with riding.

  2. ...fritz, you paragon of joy & good news...
    ...the highest gas prices in the whole country AND two of the top ten most dangerous cities in america, right here in the bay area...
    ...& yet, all this beauty...

    ...ah, yes, thus is the dichotomy of the sf bay area...

  3. Camden, New Jersey is obviously a HORRIBLE place to bike. However, just over the bridge is great riding in Philadelphia. The Ben Franklin Parkway, Fairmont Park, Manayunk, the rail-trail to Valley Forge...all great areas.

  4. Of course, some of the safest large cities in the USA are also in the Bay Area. Even portions of Oakland are nice if you know the areas to avoid. Vallejo and Richmond are probably best to stay clear of also, though again if you know where you're going.

    I guess I have been posting a lot of doom and gloom lately. I need an attitude readjustment. Posting will probably be sparse to non-existent over the Thanksgiving holiday as I recharge my batteries.

  5. ...fritz, i wasn't rippin' ya, honest, but enjoy yer time off...sometimes we all need a good break...

    ...believe me, i know...

  6. The car culture is one of the principal causes of crimes. Building "needed" highways to support sprawl so citizens can escape dangerous areas diverts public funds from crime prevention. Then parking lots must be built, destroying neighborhoods and creating ugly environments. Depopulation is the result and public resources become additionally strained. It's hard to stop it once it starts.

  7. On a visit to Baltimore, I apparently accidentally rode the Tour de Sketchy Neighborhoods. On the old beater fixed gear, with my typical shabby wardrobe, no one gave me a second glance.

    You gain a lot of safety by not projecting a sh*thead attitude. Don't project a lot of fear or arrogance and don't ride flashy equipment. Look like you know where you're going, even if you don't.

    Around hostile rednecks in a rural environment all bets are off. (Cue the banjo)