For those that don’t know, #bikenyc represents a quickly growing twitter group, tweeting and sharing everything bicycle related in New York City. #bikenyc is a combination of petitioners, community builders, bicycle enthusiasts, commuters, bloggers, and if you hadn’t guessed by my title, tech nurds who ride bikes.
The first #bikenyc tech meetup was hosted at pivotal labs, current home of TechStars and organized by Noel Hidalgo (@noneck), Lara (@bicyclehabitat), and Michael Green (@bikeblognyc). I happen to be interested in both the bicycling and tech communities in NYC. Little did I know there were others like me. The intersection of these two communities at #bikenyc is a great step towards using technology to make NYC a safer, more social place to ride. Here are some of my thoughts regarding the future of the meetup and what I hope to see come out of it. While I’m not a programmer, I hope to do my own part contributing through idea generation, business development, my network, etc.
- In order to build great products, programmers need great data. The bike infrastructure in NYC can only be enhanced with the release of city data through open API’s. Obviously, getting the Bloomberg administration to release this information will be a slow and painful process, but I think it should be made a number one priority. We could hold our own version of Big Apps competition, inviting programmers to participate in a hackathon specifically for cycling infrastructure in New York. The innovations that come out of these programs could help put pressure on the government. Proof of use cases with the data will certainly increase the argument for open API’s. Moreover, we need to recruit other groups that would also have a strong use for city information. Joining forces with other transportation startups like Roadify will help apply pressure in critical mass. From my own perspective, interning at NYC Seed, it would be tactiful to organize the large venture capitalists in NYC to apply pressure for open API’s as well. They have a lot to gain, as many of their portfolio companies could benefit from the increased amount of data. As Silicon Alley grows, east coast VC’s can wield a certain amount of power over local government. It is their companies that are supplying jobs as they grow. Our economy relies on startups for these very reasons: innovation and employment.
- There seemed to be somewhat of a division between the #bikenyc technologists and the #bikenyc community not-for-profit organizers. At its heart, the #bikenyc tech meetup should exist to facilitate communication between these two parties. Those interested in enhancing the cycling community through initiatives like group rides, community board meetings, etc need to state clearly to programmers what their problems are and how they could be addressed by building online platforms and applications. I believe the majority of #bikenyc tech meetups should be focused on bridging this divide. We may try to model our meet-ups on the fashion 2.0 conferences. One or two questions could be proposed prior to the meetup to align everyone thinking about the same topics. Although classifying whose an “expert” in this field may be difficult, we could invite entrepreneurs from other startups to come speak and offer their own input on how we can help them, and vice versa.
- Following the notion of proposing specific topics each meeting, we need to decide on a long term goal. Whether that means increasing the number of bike lanes, getting more cyclists on the road, reducing the number of vehicles, saving bike lanes already built (PPW), or getting data from the city. Establishing some long-term goals will help put everyone’s thoughts into perspective about what is and is not realistic to accomplish right now.
I expect a lot will come out of the #bikenyc tech meetup in the future. There is certainly a ton of room for improvement when thinking about New York becoming a safe, friendly environment to bike. The reasons for supporting these initiatives are simple. Biking makes people healthy, social, and above all happy. If we can use the internet to progress this thinking, we will have done our part to make our community that much better. Until then, ride on #bikenyc.
Oh, and shout out to my photographer/friend Dmitry Gudkov whose #bikenyc portraits you can find on his blog or by clicking the image above. He has done a great job bringing the #bikenyc community together through his photography. And feel free to hit him up for your own picture as spring approaches!