City cyclists crowdsource the safest path m power electricity

Local stories with a national impact– if you’re a fan of cycling in the city, and who is not, you know that not all bike lanes are created equal. And now there’s an app that will give you not only your fastest route to work, but also maybe the safest way to get there. Here to tell us more about this is WESA reporter Joaquin Gonzalez. Joaquin, welcome to Science Friday.

JOAQUIN GONZALEZ: It’s a little bit similar to the apps like Waze or Google Maps used for navigation. So the interface does look like a map. And users can go on there and create a route or directions to cycle from point A to point B. And a similarity with Waze is that they can actually see what you might call alerts, which are instances where another user has flagged some kind of road condition, which could be like a closure or construction. Here in Pittsburgh, it’s, a lot of times it’s potholes, which we’re kind of notorious for.

JOAQUIN GONZALEZ: It’s maybe even scarier and then when you’re in a car. Maybe the key thing with LaneSpotter is that it also lets users create safety ratings for any roads. So not just trails, or not even just roads with bike lanes, but really any street. And they can give it a rating from very safe to avoid on a five-point scale.

And so what LaneSpotter actually does is when it’s creating a route or directions for you, it takes those safety ratings into account once a certain amount have been created. And it tries to optimize your route, and it gives you the best combination of the most direct route and the safest route.

JOAQUIN GONZALEZ: Yeah, so the app’s founder, her name is Lynsie Campbell. She’s a longtime cyclist and bike commuter. She’s done this in multiple cities. And she’s gotten to know a lot of other cyclists. So she’s pretty well attuned to their needs, I would say. Two big concerns, or maybe motivations, that she brought up when we spoke were– the first one was that there’s varying levels of skill and experience among cyclists. And this is especially true as cycling becomes more popular, and things like bike shares become more popular. Increasingly that’s going to include a lot of beginners.

And then the second thing is that from street to street, there’s also varying degrees of difficulty and safety from one street to another. And that can be the case even when there’s bike lanes. So just because a road has a bike lane doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the easiest or safest right. And when we spoke, Lynsie gave me an example of this using a stretch of road here in Pittsburgh.

JOAQUIN GONZALEZ: Yeah I believe so. So Lynsie said she’s gotten a lot of positive feedback. And also, maybe user involvement is a good way to gauge how useful people are finding it. So LaneSpotter has been able to partner with bike advocacy groups, not just here in Pittsburgh, but in a handful of larger cities around the country. So what you’re seeing now is that cities like New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Cleveland, and a handful of others are pretty well mapped out with their safety ratings.

IRA FLATOW: Joaquin Gonzalez, reporter for WESA here in Pittsburgh. And we’re going to take a break. When we come back, what’s stronger than steel, conducts electricity better than copper, and is making waves in the world of biomedicine? We’re going to talk about graphene. Yeah we’ve talked a lot about it. We’ll talk about another possible use for it. Stay with us. We’ll be right back after this break.

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