A second free find-a-bike-rack iPhone app hits the market + Bike app brainstorm

A second free iPhone app that helps you locate nearby bike racks has hit the App Store. Just on the heels of the Seattle Bike Parking app by Tekna Designs comes VeloRacks by Woolybear.

Much of the functionality is similar. You can bring up a map of nearby bike racks easily. Tap any rack to see how many spots it can fit.

Instead of only displaying nearby bike racks, though, VeloRacks also shows a list of nearby businesses, which is pretty snazzy.

It’s great to see these free apps come out using the city’s awesome open data services. Meanwhile, the new Google Maps app for Android will include turn-by-turn bike directions. That’s pretty cool.

If you don’t already have the Ride the City route mapping iPhone app, it is definitely worth the $2.

Below are a few dream ideas I would like to send out to all you app makers (add your dream app ideas in the comments):

  • Add bike rack vacancy information to One Bus Away. No more waiting 20 min for a bus just to find all the spots full.
  • Bike/bus combo routing. Mash up bus and bike route data to give the fastest route to a destination for people who are willing to put their bike on a bus. This could also be incredibly useful when Puget Sound Bike Share launches.
  • Bike routing that gives several options, each showing feet of elevation and feet of “unfriendly” streets.
  • Bicycle Benefits app — like the Chinook Book app, but for people biking.
  • Improved BikeWise app — This app is soooo close to being awesome. An app where you can report road hazards (dangerous potholes, wheel-grabbing sewer grates, signals that don’t detect bikes, etc) from the scene? How cool is that? The problem is, it only saves your hazard report so you can submit it later from a standard web browser. It’s also not clear if the reports get sent immediately to the appropriate city department (which would be very cool).
  • Stolen Bicycle Registry app — Easily and quickly run a bike’s serial number through the SBR database to see if it has been reported stolen. Could become a regular part of the bike-buying process: Check the brakes, take it for a spin, run the number to make sure nobody is missing it.
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14 Responses to A second free find-a-bike-rack iPhone app hits the market + Bike app brainstorm

  1. Family Ride says:

    Ooh, all great ideas!

    I’d love a map of eateries with bike-up (well, walk-up) windows. Like the little places on the waterfront. It’s so nice to wheel right up, no locking and having the kids climb off for a quick snack stop.

  2. Eric says:

    Related: I spoke with someone from SDOT’s bike program a few weeks ago, who said the city doesn’t really have any way to prioritize where to install new bike racks and just goes down the request list top-to-bottom as funding becomes available.

    I suggested SDOT apply for this but never heard back: http://openplans.org/2012/08/29/shareabouts-day/

    Perhaps this blog should submit an application? An unofficial site is still better than nothing.

  3. amy says:

    iphone apps are great…if you have an iphone. developers: some windows phone love, pls?

  4. andrew squirrel says:

    “Add bike rack vacancy information to One Bus Away. No more waiting 20 min for a bus just to find all the spots full.”

    While in theory, this sounds wonderful, however, when you actually think about it, totally impossible.
    Scenario: Smart Phone App says next bus is in 30 minutes. You decide to wait instead of ride. Bus continues the entire route with no bikes whatsoever. At the stop before yours (maybe you can even visually see it considering how excessively frequent buses stop in Seattle) suddenly there are 3 cyclists who take up all the spots and you are denied. So, in conclusion, unless you can reserve a spot I don’t forsee this being logically useful.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Of course. But it’s another tool to help you out. I was thinking more about checking, seeing that the next bus already has a full bike rack, and choosing to just bike it instead (or take a different bus that arrives sooner, but doesn’t get you as close).

      It’s a silly idea that would require a rehab of bus racks (likely expensive). But it would be cool.

      • Mike H says:

        I thought that Metro drivers were required to push a button to show that someone was using the rack. Even if they did, they’d have to push another button to clear it when the person had taken their bike off.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Oh, interesting. I didn’t realize they were already tracking that. Hmm….

      • peter says:

        A simple solution would be adhesive pressure transducer ribbons stuck into the front tire wells on the racks that then plug into the existing bus computer. Expense would be on how much that $1 of material would retail for and a software update to account for 3 more bits of data (occupied or full) in each transmitted packet.

    • Forrest says:

      I actually had a very interesting email exchange with OneBusAway and Tiramisu Transit, which is based in Pittsburgh, where there is no real-time hardware:

      Crowdsourcing this kind of information is exactly the focus of our research. But frankly this particular issue is difficult- how would one make sure enough riders check and track the bike racks (the status of which changes during a ride)?

      I think an in-app survey with tappable bike rack spots could easily accomplish this. An added advantage is that those inputting info for their own bikes will know where they’re getting off… and can also put in temporary info for the other slot. OBA is open-source, people… who wants to join me?

  5. Mondoman says:

    Interesting ideas!
    Regarding the bus racks, is there any data on when/if they get full on certain routes or certain times of day? With only 2 or 3 spaces per bus, it seems like they would get full a lot if cyclists actually used them. If so, is it practical to add 2nd racks to the back ends of the buses to double capacity?

    • Al Dimond says:

      I’ve said this before: I’d rather we doubled down on quality, secure, public bike parking at major transit nodes. I’d pay for it every day if it was available.

      The only reason I bring my bike down to the Montlake Flyer Stop and attach it to the front of a bus is that the bike parking comes in two varieties there: unavailable and insecure.

  6. Breadbaker says:

    I had uploaded the first app just to see it (and the price was right), but didn’t expect to use it much because I generally park my bike downtown where there is rarely a shortage of racks. However, last week I was up in Fremont and couldn’t find a rack anywhere (and didn’t want to lock it to a stop sign because the ones where I was would make my bike block the wheelchair ramp on the sidewalk). So I pulled out the app and voila, there was a rack right across the street that I couldn’t see because there was a big truck parked in front of it. So: epic success.

  7. Forrest says:

    I’m into the bike-bus combo idea. I’m often able to make transfers because I’ve brought along my bike. I’d love to plan a trip, and be able to see the best bike-on-transit options. It would be great to be able to see when buses/trains/ferries/water-taxis are scheduled, as I get near them, so I can make decisions on the fly. I also like the freedom of being able to get off and bike. Awareness of good trails and routes would help this.

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