While Pittsburgh’s own Convention and Visitors Bureau showcases the city’s “bicycle experience,” real-time data shows that hazards can be a part of that experience, too. That’s been crystalized by Dashcam for your Bike’s newly released Hazard Map.
Following an incident where he was struck by a car while biking and then told he had no legal recourse, Dashcam’s CEO and founder Armin Samii was inspired to create the app which provides bike commuters with a dash cam through their smartphones, and in turn evidence of accidents and mistreatment. Now, in partnership with the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure as a recent participant in the PGH Lab Cohort 7.0 — a program that connects local startups with local government — the company is unveiling the map as a brand new feature for its app.
“Many drivers are unaware of the dangers of parking in a bike lane,” Samii said. “But when you see a child forced into traffic on Penn Ave to get around your parked car, you know you’re putting that child’s life at risk.”
Before the app, when bicyclists attempted to report hazards regarding bike lanes to the city’s 311 hotline, they were often redirected to call the police. Samii said this wasn’t something many bicyclists were comfortable with and even the police felt that this wasn’t strictly under their jurisdiction.
“It’s just not what the police are trained to do,” he said. “It brings a gun into a situation unnecessarily and so what I really think should be happening is a parking authority should be monitoring the bike lanes for illegal parking.”
Right now, if a car comes into your path in a bike lane, there’s little that can be done about it except going into oncoming traffic, Samii said. More than that, cars frequently park in bike lanes to avoid parking fees, which also goes unpenalized by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, he added. This can create a “helpless” feeling for bikers, and that’s why the Hazard Map provides a breakdown of cars parked in bike lanes populated by reports from Dashcam for your Bike users, Samii said. The hope is that giving city officials this data will encourage them to address the hazards bicyclists encounter.
“The Hazard Map shows the scope of the problem and just how bad it is with cars parking in bike lanes, how frequently it happens, and more than that, where and when it happens,” Samii told Technical.ly.
Since bicyclists began collecting data through the Dashcam for your Bike app, users have reported over 200 cars for parking in bike lanes, in addition to 100 additional hazards and other miscellaneous obstructions of bike lanes.
“”[This data] will be used to inform DOMI’s efforts to create a safe and connected bike network that increases access for people of all ages and abilities,” Rylan Seifert, a policy analyst for the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, said in a press release.
Throughout the country, the CDC estimates roughly 130,000 bicyclists are injured in accidents every year. And though his company is small with only four employees, Samii hopes to expand to partnerships with cities outside of Pittsburgh to further combat this issue while keeping the Steel City as its headquarters. He also hopes that the app’s newest feature will help bicyclists feel safe, seen and heard.
“There’s nobody you can talk to, there’s nothing that gets done and the Dash Cam app gives you a place to put that anger and turn it into action,” Samii said. “What I’m hoping is that it becomes clear that we need more infrastructure protection on the bike lanes, and we need more enforcement.”
Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supportedby the Heinz Endowments.