On Friday March 2, 2012, Rutgers University students and volunteers from the community took the streets to investigate and record apparent hazards that bicyclists face in New Brunswick on their daily commutes, as part of an initiative to assess the bikeability of the area.
Using Mappler Mobile, a smartphone application developed by Vertices that utilizes GIS technology, students were able to easily survey the streets using a rating system that also allowed for open-ended comments on various conditions. Some of these observations included poor surfacing and obstructions, reckless driving, heavy traffic, and lack of signage. By doing so, students were able to develop an interactive map of hazardous locations by uploading field observations real-time from their smartphones to the RU Biking Mappler website.
The RU Biking interactive map has allowed students to display their categorized observations of concerns and describe as well as rate how unsafe areas of streets are for biking. Selecting categories such as “Heavy Traffic” and “Poorly Paved Surface/Pot Hole” helps bicyclists in identifying which routes to avoid while biking on and around campus.
Another aspect of the assessment included the option for each participant to select potential improvements related to the potential hazards that they recorded. At locations with wide streets, some participants suggested the integration of bike lanes onto the street or “share the road” signs.
Participation in the RU Biking Community Mapping event enabled students and volunteers to become more aware of the conditions that bicyclists in the area currently face, while making these potential hazards represented visually on the RU Biking Mappler website. Using the tools of public participation and GIS technology via Mappler Mobile makes data collection regarding issues of concern more efficient, as it opens up the opportunity for a wider range of data collection, community involvement, and the creation of an easily accessible visual depiction of the extent of hazardous bike conditions.