To continue the conversation about DIY Urbanism, here is a concrete project that we believe fits nicely into this trend and is within our reach. We call it “Bikes in Motion“.
Common wisdom among urban planners is that enabling a larger proportion of the population to rely on cycling to find their way across the core of a city vastly improves the dynamics of the system as a whole. Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen have been showing the way for decades. More recently, far more complex cities like Mexico City have embraced pilot programs to see the bike culture thrive, including bike sharing programs, special days to encourage citizens to go out and bike while eliminating other sources of traffic along important arteries.
It is difficult to know if Toronto is effectively the first city to rollback on the deployment of existing bike lanes, but what is evident is that the lack of precise information about how citizens commute creates a dangerous precedent at city halls in taking such drastic measures. To this effect we decided to design a system that would allow a group of cyclists to gather data about their movement across the city.
There are several types of solutions already available to track the movement of cyclist along a route. They range from very simple “check-in” solutions running as apps on smartphones to very sophisticated GPS-based devices that track precise location at all times. However, for our purpose we decided it would be better to create a very simple gadget that could be attached to a bike, track movement but not precise location and limit the amount of information needed from the outside to function correctly.
We’ll devote a future post to explain precisely how our custom device works, but we believe its cost is low enough that biking organization would have an incentive to promote its use across their members and create a reliable record that can be used in campaigns to promote better cycling lanes along a city. Above all, this system is designed so every commuter can share the information about her routes without giving away personal information or sharing location in real time which is perceived as a potential threat to safety.
We had plenty of inspiration for this project, including the work from Jo Wood to visualize popular routes in London. However, we believe in our era of cheap electronics it should be possible to get very accurate information about the paths that cyclists take, and not only their interpolation between origin and destination. This is how we believe our project will take these ideas further.
We currently working with a couple of organizations to deploy a pilot program, but it would be great to hear from other cities about similar programs or perhaps even share our design so they can roll out their own program. If you know about any such city, please let us know.