Crowdsource Bad Drivers
January 24, 2020 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Evolving from the Twitter bot How's My Driving DC, the app Our Streets has been released, allowing vulnerable road users to crowdsource data on dangerous drivers. The app is intended to identify hotspots of dangerous activity like parking in bike lanes, aggressive driving, and speeding. Bicycling magazine provides a breakdown.
posted by backseatpilot (49 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Reporting a vehicle through the OurStreets app will not guarantee that a driver will be issued a citation for that particular incident, nor will it guarantee that citations will be enforced. It ultimately depends on what city governments (those who collaborate with OurStreets) decide to do with the data they’re given.

And there it is.

Aggregating and publishing the data is nice, but it's all for nothing if traffic enforcement doesn't actually, y'know, do something about it. In Boston, for example, you can dig through hundreds of 311 tickets (which are publicly accessible through the city website, even!), and figure out trends like "this particular block is always infested with triple-parked assholes at 4PM." One might naturally assume that the city would dispatch traffic enforcement officers to address the problem. One would assume wrong. The only time I've ever gotten anyone to do anything about blatant safety hazards, I had to upload dashboard cam footage to /r/boston and then wait until it hit critical mass and local news stations started asking for interviews. Then and only then did the city discover the complaint I'd filed the previous week.
posted by Mayor West at 6:34 AM on January 24 [19 favorites]


Things like these are great, taking individual reports/complaints of dangerous driving that the police ignore, and turning them into rich, useful datasets for the police to ignore.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:37 AM on January 24 [30 favorites]


Bonus Boston-traffic-fuckery story: my office is half a block from one of the most dangerous intersections in the city, where I read 4 or 5 stories every year about cars running the red light and injuring bikers or pedestrians. Last month, I thought my prayers had been answered, as there was a uniformed traffic enforcement officer standing in the middle of the intersection. Where he impatiently waved traffic through a red light while a horde of pedestrians jumped back to avoid being hit while they had a green cross signal.

My next step involves attaching a wide-angle body camera to myself, and investing in some heavy-duty steel-toed boots. You come at the pedestrians, you best not miss, cranky old white guys driving Mercedes SUVs.
posted by Mayor West at 6:41 AM on January 24 [8 favorites]


UK here. App not available in UK store. Sounds like something we need too though.
posted by ZJQJ at 6:42 AM on January 24


Now that the gig economy is established, we're on to the snitch economy, huh? Can't wait for the version that's used to harass rough sleepers.
posted by Reyturner at 6:47 AM on January 24 [21 favorites]


Mayor West, I’d like to take a moment to introduce you the many benefits of walking with nice sturdy cane :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:49 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


I wonder how this will work in NYC where half those reports about bike lane parking are going to be for cop cars.
posted by Hactar at 6:54 AM on January 24 [8 favorites]


I'll be curious to see how this works in Toronto, where the police have basically stopped enforcing traffic violations.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 7:25 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


An app to create a dataset of real or imagined transgressions of your fellow citizens. That's some really dystopian stuff.
posted by dominik at 7:36 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


Now that the gig economy is established, we're on to the snitch economy, huh? Can't wait for the version that's used to harass rough sleepers.

I share your concerns about crowdsourcing used against the unhoused and other vulnerable populations.

Calling this sort of data collection of motorists creating unsafe streets for other road users the "snitch economy" might sound catchy and clever, but also supports the oppressive, auto centric world view that kills people on a daily basis.
posted by kendrak at 7:38 AM on January 24 [20 favorites]


This is an interesting idea. But I do wonder how long it's going to take before some jerk or jerks begin flooding it with bogus reports for lolz and effectively break it.
posted by slkinsey at 7:44 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Now that the gig economy is established, we're on to the snitch economy, huh? Can't wait for the version that's used to harass rough sleepers.

An app to create a dataset of real or imagined transgressions of your fellow citizens. That's some really dystopian stuff.


Friends of mine have submitted several reports about almost being killed both while on foot and on bike, and in private told me that they were also threatened and/or had slurs shouted at them. But sure, go off on how this is just all in the imagination of all those horrible pedestrians and bicyclists who dare to point out people driving multi-ton death machines in an unsafe manner while almost every single local government defends their inaction as essential to The American Way.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 8:03 AM on January 24 [24 favorites]


When we lived in Kitchener every time I'd go for a walk I'd be endangered by a driver. Every time. It's better in Toronto, at least, because there are a lot more pedestrians. It's not great, of course.

I do think it's time for a cane with a sharpened titanium or steel tip, though. Retractable so there's a soft rubber base but you can push a button and out it comes for ice stability (cough). Something nice and stylish to augment my fabulous attire. Maybe with some fricking Arduino controlled LEDs and/or lasers and sound effects just to add some panache. Hmm.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:09 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


I'm 100% in favor of the goals and motivations of this, but man am I uncomfortable with the execution.
posted by Dr. Twist at 8:16 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


It's possible for this to be both a crowd sourced snitchapp driving us closer to dystopia AND a great tool in dealing with "tools" on the road.

On preview: what the good Dr. Twist said.
posted by jonnay at 8:19 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


The problem, I think, is that any kind of "crowd-based" system can be turned into a sledgehammer for bullies. The more popular it gets, and especially if it ultimately is connected to some kind of real-world penalties or enforcement, the more it will be abused by tools and trolls and racists and assholes. (And, of course, Most Favoured People, e.g. rich politically connected whites, will never really see any effect anyway.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:27 AM on January 24 [10 favorites]


Y'all convinced me: the for profit app in conjunction with the cops will totally make things safer for vulnerable people and won't be turned against them.
posted by Reyturner at 8:27 AM on January 24 [12 favorites]


If you want a perfect example why DC is Ground Zero for this, here's a story where a driver who was speeding at 68MPH on a 25MPH limit road while driving drunk ran off the road and killed two people sitting on a bench minding their own business. The local press immediately portrayed it as an "accident" where the victims were apparently killed by the SUV and not the driver, and the driver's sentence was reduced from second-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter.

The idea that drivers are the victims is laughable.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 8:28 AM on January 24 [17 favorites]


Y'all convinced me: the for profit app in conjunction with the cops will totally make things safer for vulnerable people and won't be turned against them.

Dangerous By Design 2019
Who are the victims of these tragic crashes? Although people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and income levels suffer the consequences of dangerous street design, some neighborhoods and groups of people bear a larger share of the burden than others.

Older adults, people of color, and people walking in low-income communities are disproportionately represented in fatal crashes involving people walking.

Even after controlling for differences in population size and walking rates, we see that drivers strike and kill people over age 50, Black or African American people, American Indian or Alaska Native people, and people walking in communities with lower median household incomes at much higher rates.

People age 50 and up, and especially people age 75 and older, are overrepresented in deaths involving people walking. This age group is more likely to experience challenges seeing, hearing, or moving, and if these trends are any indication, we are not devoting nearly enough attention to the unique needs of older adults when we design our streets.

These disparities become even more pronounced when we account for variations in walking rates by age. The relative pedestrian danger for older adults age 50 and above is more than a third higher than it is for the general population, and for people age 75 and up it is almost twice as high.

Drivers strike and kill people of color, especially Black or African American and American Indian or Alaska Native people, at higher rates compared to White, Non-Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander people. The figure below highlights the relative danger by census-designated racial and ethnic groups of being struck and killed while walking, controlling for differences in walking rates and population size.

Although nationwide data do not include information about the household income of individuals who are struck and killed while walking, they do reveal where people are walking when they are killed. People are struck and killed while walking at much higher rates in lower-income communities compared to higher-income ones.

The lower a metro area’s median household income, the more dangerous its streets are likely to be for people walking.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 8:42 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


Just because traffic fatalities are skewed towards marginalized people it doesn't follow that empowering them with an un-accountable, un-auditable information collection app with little to information on what else is or can be done with the information should be scrutinized.

crowdsourcing information collection on private citizens, regardless of the nobility of cause or how dangerous they are really, really should be thought through.
posted by Dr. Twist at 8:57 AM on January 24 [9 favorites]


Crowdsourcing information like this is often the only channel that marginalized people have for protecting themselves. There's a reason that almost every single method of tracking down violent white supremacists has fallen on the shoulders of their victims.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 9:13 AM on January 24 [7 favorites]


As much as I'm for strict traffic regulation and a ban of big cars (and I'm going by European standards here. Everything over a 1.5 tons is big as far as I'm concerned) in cities and a lot of pedestrian-only zones, I'm not too sure I'm comfortable in a conversation where bad drivers are equated to violent white supremacists in order to support the idea of a privatised Stasi-like snitching app.
So yeah… you do you, I'll go for a walk now.
posted by dominik at 9:29 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


~30,000 traffic-related deaths per year in the USA. To put it in crass terminology, it's a 9/11 number of violent deaths almost every month. I contend that a future civilization will look back on numbers like that with horror and fascination. Our culture is really, really weird in some ways.
posted by SoberHighland at 9:44 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Bike Lane Uprising does this for certain cities (and you have to create an account and have it approved to submit an obstruction, which helps with the spammer issue).

Where I think this user-reported data is useful is in mapping where better infrastructure is needed. As much as I'd like to see enforcement of bike lane obstructions -- because it is dangerous and potentially deadly to cyclists -- I just have no faith it will happen. Cops hate cyclists at worst and are indifferent at best. But aldermen can be pressured with this data to use discretionary funds to create fully protected bike lanes and city councils and mayors can be pressured with this information to put some action behind all their Vision Zero empty promises.

Driving a car comes with some responsibilities, which includes not putting other road users in harms' way. At least as far as Chicago goes, no one is getting tickets from a reported obstruction, it's just being added to a database (and the obstruction can be reported without any identifying info if the reporter chooses.) The most that cyclists are asking for in terms of enforcement is for cops to pay more attention to problem areas, not track down an individual that was reported in the database.
posted by misskaz at 9:53 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


Since there's some questions about what happens to the complaints, from local coverage:
OurStreets, a new-and-improved version of the app How’s My Driving—which similarly allows users to report traffic violations they witness—will connect straight to the complaint system at the Department of For-Hire Vehicles, which regulates taxi and ride-hailing companies in D.C.

The application is also in talks to share data with other city agencies, including the Department of Public Works and the Department of Transportation, says Mark Sussman, the chief executive of OurStreets.
Individual Uber/Lyft/whatever rideshare drivers are not required to register with DC's DFHV, so only the reports for licensed taxi/limo/private bus operators will be useful to for any kind of DFHV enforcement action.

That said, the local coverage of this app has consisted entirely of positive puff-pieces that leave many questions unanswered. It feels entirely like they've hired on a media relations firm to place upbeat stories to hype their app:
He added that the long-term strategy is to cover the app’s cost with a freemium business model, in which OurStreets could sell detailed data-feed services to cities and also offer insights to “third parties like insurance companies, transportation planners and researchers.” The new app’s e-scooter and bike-share reporting functions could allow for similar premium feeds for micromobility operators.
posted by peeedro at 9:55 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


The idea that drivers are the victims is laughable.
Crowdsourcing information like this is often the only channel that marginalized people have for protecting themselves. There's a reason that almost every single method of tracking down violent white supremacists has fallen on the shoulders of their victims.
you do you; I'll go for a walk now.


Yeah. In America, in the majority of the country, having some form of vehicle is essential, not an option. Like wouldn't it be nice if we could walk to work, to the grocery store? So there's this form of systematic oppression in the form of vehicle=slightly better quality of life v no-vehicle= good luck, hope you're a genius and scrappy and incredibly lucky to deal with the format of this country using whatever available public transit (often late) or by foot (puts you at risk of other negative stuff, takes ages, not reasonable for how places are designed) or by bike, where you have absolutely no rights in the road and recourse if people do shitty stuff to you. Riding my bike as transit for like, 14 years (in Texas! and Philly) has yielded some hairy situations. I've been called names, been hit on, had people honk at me incessantly in the driving rain for biking safely and taking up more space so that I'm visible, had people in cars throw shit at me like cups of ice, had people coast into the bike lane for the sheer sake of...what? Turn right or left without checking their mirrors and nearly crush me to death...I mean, I could keep going.

So yeah, I'll take an imperfect collect reporting system dystopic app that protects vulnerable people esp because local and federal government adamantly refuse to give half a shit at all and resent you for existing altogether, take that late-stage capitalism?
posted by erattacorrige at 9:58 AM on January 24 [8 favorites]


I'm not too sure I'm comfortable in a conversation where bad drivers are equated to violent white supremacists in order to support the idea of a privatised Stasi-like snitching app.

Too bad I didn't do it the right way, which is apparently to compare an app tracking someone running me off the road to a 311 (not even 911!) number to a decades-long system of reporting alleged ideological deviance to right-wing death squads.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 10:09 AM on January 24 [7 favorites]


> Just because traffic fatalities are skewed towards marginalized people it doesn't follow that empowering them with an un-accountable, un-auditable information collection app with little to information on what else is or can be done with the information should be scrutinized. crowdsourcing information collection on private citizens, regardless of the nobility of cause or how dangerous they are really, really should be thought through.

Thanks for the reductive explanation!

For the time being there's literally no legal (or, really, personal) consequence to anybody tagged by the app. The personal data behind a vehicle tagged is not exposed to the tagger. I don't like the privatized collection of public information but cyclists and pedestrians have, at this point, literally no alternative but wishing.

Being a cyclist ignored by the police or even a cyclist decided by a court to be the person responsible for an accident is the norm. If you want to wage the good and proper fight against unaccountability, please start there rather than concern-trolling here.
posted by at by at 10:09 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


[Folks, let's try and keep this more at "here's my personal thoughts on this" and less into "here's why not feeling way x about this means endorsing crappy thing y" territory. There's some pretty obviously complicated intersections of privacy concerns and car/bike/pedestrian asymmetry and systemic oppression tangled up in this subject and talking through and unpacking those intersections in a careful and collaborative way is going to make for a much better conversation than escalating into any kind of It's Either X Or Y kind of dynamic.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:15 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


It ultimately depends on what city governments (those who collaborate with OurStreets) decide to do with the data they’re given.
It ultimately depends on what city governments (those who collaborate with OurStreets) decide to do with the data they’re given.
It ultimately depends on what city governments (those who collaborate with OurStreets) decide to do with the data they’re given.
It ultimately depends on what city governments (those who collaborate with OurStreets) decide to do with the data they’re given.

posted by aspersioncast at 12:04 PM on January 24


More constructively, I will point out that in DC, the driver is presumed to be at fault in a number of common bicycle/driver interactions, including getting doored. However, city cops are often very much unaware of the actual laws. I've been a bike commuter here for over a decade and the infrastructure and awareness have both improved quite a bit in that time, but I sort of see the problems the app is trying to deal with.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:09 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


One very concrete way these apps could harm cyclists and other marginalized people is that when insurance companies see that someone has been tagged for bad behavior, the prudent thing to do would be to cancel their insurance or sharply raise their rates.

Which would very quickly lead to a situation in which the worst offenders were much less likely than they now are to have adequate or really any insurance, and anybody they injure would therefore be much less likely to be compensated.
posted by jamjam at 12:22 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Automobiles were designed to be part of a surveillance apparatus, that’s precisely what license plates and the DMV are for and that apparatus is already used to justify the over-the-top funding of the police state.

Shock of shocks, that police state is used to selectively enforce against people of color. (I.e. “driving while black”)

Plus, car culture keeps people in debt and is the number one cause of accidental death.

The dystopia is already here. You’re just too privileged to see it. If you don’t want to be a party to that, move somewhere where you can structure a life without driving.
posted by Skwirl at 12:23 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


I'm currently working on the Baltimore version of the How's My Driving DC Twitter bot. (There are a few known bugs, but I anticipate it being in full working order this weekend) You can find it at @BadDrivingBmore.

I mentioned it to some co-workers while we were riding in my boss's car. They immediately started looking up random license plates on cars around us. Every plate had at least one violation on it with the exception of my boss's.

We all agreed that having a lookup like this solves no real problems, and will be ignored by the city, but there's still something visceral about it.

For me, I'm daily frustrated by constant near misses as I'm riding to and from work. Every time my wife is late getting home from work, I have to wonder if she got creamed by some oblivious idiot in a motor vehicle. Maybe it's just screaming into the void. Maybe it's reassurance that yes, the guy this morning who just about left-hooked me without even noticing until I called him an asshole, deserved it because he has a well-documented history of bad driving, and those are just the times he got caught by automated cameras.

Maybe it's just an action I can take to lend the illusion that I can do something about this crazy world.
posted by circleofconfusion at 12:51 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


With regard to the canceling the insurance issue, the information in the Twitter bots is already available in public datasets. I'm personally working with the Open Baltimore dataset Your insurance company is free to peruse these at their leisure in a much more spreadsheet-friendly format. New York has one, and I assume DC does, too. Montgomery County MD has one, but they don't include the license plate number.

Honestly, I don't think the insurance companies care. Driving cars is so ingrained in our culture, and we bend over backwards as a society to accommodate it. What other thing in American society kills 35,000-40,000 people every year and we all collectively shrug over it? Even guns, which kill at a similar rate, have people saying, "Maybe we ought to do something about this." For cars, it's effectively crickets.
posted by circleofconfusion at 1:09 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


I'm currently working on the Baltimore version of the How's My Driving DC Twitter bot.

That's a great thing for the city. For the years when I was an arts facility manager in Baltimore, I took the commuter train to work and used a bicycle to get around, mostly between the facilities I was overseeing and our head office, which were all relatively close, but with insanely bad roads connecting them, so I basically navigated the city in alleys and on sidewalks with a tiny folding bike that I used respectfully. I had a few comic moments of near-death trying to use the "combined" bus/bike lanes downtown with a bus beeping at me three inches from my back wheel when I was keeping up with traffic nicely.

To this day, even when I'm driving, my friends will ask me why I'm in an alley as we're going somewhere in the city, which is largely because those were my reliably safe routes. I had to ride uptown for radio interviews a time or two and I can't imagine surviving the trip on the roads.
posted by sonascope at 1:15 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


For those of us already submitting reports of dangerous driving to our local law enforcement and public works departments, this will mostly provide an easier interface, with form fields that are more relevant to the problems we're trying to document than the existing city-provided web forms. Being automated, it should also scale better than previous efforts like the Close Call Database did.

I'm just so tired of the near-death experiences on the way to the fucking grocery store. Being able to share them more easily with neighbors dealing with the same problem is unlikely to lead to stricter enforcement. None of my previous reports have, anyway. But it'll be nice to see a searchable record that isn't just falling down a hole somewhere that we don't have access to. I am incredibly envious of the states that have publicly searchable license plate databases that show violations accumulated. Also envious of states with camera enforcement so that there are violations to show.

So many vulnerable road user deaths are hit-and-run collisions that I am entirely in favor of a system that tracks all those weapons being driven openly on our streets, far beyond what any crowd-sourcing app could hope to achieve.
posted by asperity at 3:29 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


We're about 0-5 years from being able to do this with faces too (via public apps; obviously China, UK, and many others already do it). We're going to have to decide asap whether this is the path we want to go down, where everyone's face, car, house, social media accounts, and every other public aspect is tagged, cross-referenced, broadcast and searchable by everyone, or whether this data should only be heavily regulated and/or in the hands of the state. Those are really the only two options. We can give up on the state altogether and go pure vigilante/public justice, but that's a pretty big decision. And on the other hand, GDPR shows that the state can indeed stop this stuff in its tracks if we want it to. We just have to decide which dystopia we fear more.
posted by chortly at 4:56 PM on January 24


I just want the ability to see other people's reports for the same license plate so I can decide whether it's worth calling an encounter in to the police.

(Skeptical of the "bigdata" tag, by the way. I don't imagine the current dataset actually exceeds the memory of my 10 year old laptop. :-P)
posted by Belostomatidae at 6:16 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


The power of the swarm is a wonderful thing... until it results in group thuggery, bullying, and even lynching. While it is apparent that little is being done to enforce laws, the efforts of people should go towards ensuring those entrusted with upholding and enforcing the law are actually doing the job they are being paid for. It is like going through self-checkout in a supermarket. Seems like a good idea until the person who needs the low wage job is no longer able to work and you as an individual are providing a corporation with free labor.
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 12:00 AM on January 25


The power of the swarm is a wonderful thing... until it results in group thuggery, bullying, and even lynching

This is a slippery slope argument, ie logical fallacy. There's been loads of times where a cyclist or pedestrian were killed by a reckless driver and the driver was known yet I've never heard of a single case of one of these drivers being "lynched" as you say. As well, the people who are harmed most actively by law enforcement are those who have the least amount of persuasive power to enforce policy changes and behavioral changes within police departments. This is a bonkers argument that smells of DARVO: deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender.
posted by erattacorrige at 7:17 AM on January 25 [5 favorites]


erattacorrige at 7:17 AM on January 25

I am a cyclist myself and you are taking my comment too literally. And it definitely does not deserve the 'DARVO' acronym. We live in shared spaces and have duties and responsibilities to others around us. The streets of NYC (and others) are filled with people who commit regular egregious acts violating road laws and acting as if they own their 'space' - many of them are cyclists and pedestrians. One of the issues we as cyclists face is that we are not protected from interactions with other road / sidewalk users (note the emphasis there - three days ago I was hit by a cyclist traveling at speed on the sidewalk on Madison Avenue. He gave me a mouthful of abuse. I had no recourse to report him as there is no requirement for bikes to carry identifiers (NB: I was in my regular cycling gear and wearing hi-viz clothing!)). Cyclists regularly face conflict situations but do little to improve their perceived image of being 'arrogant, entitled, and threatening' (what I was called by a cell-phone using pedestrians who stepped off the sidewalk without looking directly into my path. When I dismounted to move out of the roadway they perceived this as 'an aggressive act'.).

This does not give us the right to publicly shame others without recourse as this will do little to alter peoples perceptions of cyclists. Like the roads, it is an uneven/unbalanced 'playing field'. As cyclists we need to do more ourselves to show we are responsible users of public space. Some of the most basic actions include things like wearing hi-viz clothing, not wearing headphones, hi-intensity front, back, and side lights, staying off sidewalks, not blowing red lights, not endangering pedestrians.... etc Myself? I even have a 'How's my cycling?' sign which includes a number people can call. That in itself has been a revelation in humankind....

Sadly, traffic laws are tilted against both pedestrians and we cyclists. Yes, report clear violations of road laws but, no, we do NOT need an app for that. There are other forms of recourse than making shared spaces more hostile than they already are.
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 8:13 AM on January 25


How's my cycling?' sign which includes a number people can call.

This argument is a red herring and I'm not going to engage. But I sure hope the next time an SUV knocks me off the road and I fly into a nearby ditch that someone calls the "how's my cycling" sign lying crumpled 15 feet away from my bike.
posted by erattacorrige at 8:20 AM on January 25 [5 favorites]


erattacorrige - you have misread that as the number is for people to call me, there is no 'red herring' at all except the one you appear to be seeing. The comment does not get away from the main subject regarding the 'crowdsourcing of bad drivers'. How can we be expected to be taken seriously when there are so many egregious road violations committed by other cyclists with impunity and no means of identification?

There is zero argument here with regard to my identifying myself to other road user. I STRONGLY believe that we as cyclists have a direct responsibility for our actions and believe that we should be registered users of the road IF we expect to be listened to. As I stated, enabling others to call me has been a revelation. Currently the percentage of message leavers thanking me for identifying myself and acting as a responsible road user far exceeds the nut job abusive calls that I knew I would get.


Incidentally, 911 would be a far better number to call in the event of an accident...
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 8:55 AM on January 25


Requiring cyclists to register/get licensed decreases cycling rates, making for fewer bikes on on the road, making cycling less safe for those who continue to ride. It makes one of the cheaper forms of transportation for the poor less cheap and creates another avenue to criminalize the young, poor, and disadvantaged. Nevermind that it costs more money to run the program that it earns back.

Hell no, spend that money on infrastructure that makes us safe. I refuse to be a part of any call for cyclists to have to wear hi-viz head to toe, hang a little license plate from their saddle (that no one will be able to read), ride with a whistle in their mouth or constantly ringing a bell, and string up their bike like a Christmas tree to be "taken seriously." We need to stop acting like respectability politics are what is going to get cities to do what needs to be done: Build. Better. Infrastructure.

All a stupid "how's my cycling" sign does is give smug assholes someone more "virtuous" than me to point to when they are harassing me for taking the lane because I am trying to avoid being doored.

And I say this as someone who wears a helmet, has bright flashy front and rear lights and wears a fucking LIGHT UP VEST when I bike - not because I think it's my responsibility but because I hope it will make the few drivers not staring at their phones more likely to see me, and when I inevitably do get mowed down by a driver in an SUV at least the news article about my death won't blame me for it.
posted by misskaz at 9:58 AM on January 25 [8 favorites]


[First, don't make comparisons to lynching; it's offensive in pretty much every case. Second, cycling threads often become heated, so if you've made your point a few times and people aren't agreeing, please let it rest there rather than going another few rounds.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:07 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


There is no easy way for most people in most of the US to find any information associated with a license plate number, much less contact information. Some states allow the public to view lists of violations and fines associated with a license plate number.
posted by asperity at 11:08 AM on January 25


This app is, like so many others, an effort to address the ever-weakening power of the state to represent public interests in the face of relentless, rapacious capitalism. If you look at an older city grid, like most of downtown DC, you'll see that there are main arterial streets and then behind those in the shadows are alleyways and byways. Those serve an important purpose: pretty much every business still needs to get some deliveries of something, even if its just the fancy free lunch for employees of the blank pieces of paper that investment banks print their money on. But when cities are redeveloped, the developers see those alleys as wasted public space that could be put to private gain and demand the right to build over them. Because no inch of square foot that could be profitized shall be left to some public good.

So then the delivery services that serve those buildings have no choice but to double and triple park to do their job. They don't pay the cost of traffic backed up behind them or bikes who have to swerve out into traffic 2-3 times per block. Same with the Ubers and Lyfts.

They're all basically using a public space - the street - as a resource to run their business. No different than if a guy put up a table and started selling stuff on the sidewalk. On a small scale, that's OK, inevitable, maybe even welcome. But in our times the privatization of public space is no longer an occasional inconvenience - it's a business model.

Its unfortunate that this app is necessary and useful but it is. I have it and use it and think everyone should. Not because double-parked trucks are a nuisance but because we need to use every possible tool to defend public goods from being privatized for someone else's profit.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 1:02 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


I think making ourselves as cyclists "respectable" is a losing proposition. I almost always follow traffic rules, including waiting at lights. Drivers still yell at me for taking up space on the road.

Motorists don't want us to behave, they want us to not exist. There's no reasoning with that. Sadly, there's a slice of humanity that only responds to threats. Most of us would follow any given law just because it's the right thing to do, or we understand why it exists. Some people only follow the law because they know that they could be sent to jail. Unfortunately, traffic laws are badly enforced here in America. The slice of humanity that only responds to force knows that no punishment is coming if they deliberately run a red light, so we see a lot of bad behavior on our streets. Without the government to stop scofflaws, all we have is violent force or shaming.
posted by circleofconfusion at 1:18 PM on January 26 [9 favorites]


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