Summer Days, Summer Haze

Posted in commuting, cycling, nyc by antisociology on May 25, 2009

Summer has traditionally been the time when I itch to learn something new. I think it started in high school, when I spent summers learning new programming languages, or trying to sharpen up some skill I’d taken a liking to during the school year. Programming, or photography, or painting, and whatnot.

This summer, I’m thinking of two things. First, I’d like to start learning how to play the banjo. That’s fairly self explanatory. The second thing I’d like to get going is what I call the “Danger Bike” project. You see, I’m a big advocate of transportation and utility cycling. The bicycle is one of the most efficient machines man has ever invented.

Cycling on city streets can be terrifying, however. This is particularly true of new cyclists, and it can turn them off of bicycling in a big way. What I’d like to do is build some proximity and location loggers and distribute them to people who bike in various parts of the city. The idea is that these devices would collect location information gathered from a GPS receiver, as well as proximity information from infrared sensors mounted on the bike.

Data from these devices would then be uploaded to a web site, and people could visually see which city streets have traffic that passes closest to cyclists. Software sitting behind the web site would aggregate data for display, and users would be able to view vehicle proximity data either as overall averages as well as averaged by time of day (e.g., average proximity on Broadway Ave. between 6:00P and 7:00P).

The devices would probably consist of small sealed boxes that you can stick on a rear bicycle rack and would incorporate all of the electronics, an antenna for the GPS receiver, and some lights for status. I estimate each unit would cost between $200 and $250 to build. I’m thinking of building a prototype for myself to play with and then doing a Kickstarter project in order to get funds to make more and get devices into the hands of other people.

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