There are now twice as many bicycles in the world as there are cars, with more than 1 million bikes currently on the road. While equipping your trusty bike with a leather bike seat can go a long way in making your ride more comfortable, finding bike-friendly routes can still be a challenge in many parts of the country. In fact, because there are more cyclists now than in the past, safety hazards can have an even more pronounced impact. Luckily, we live in an age where there's always an app for that.
A new iPhone app called LaneSpotter has been described as the "Waze for cycling." Essentially, it uses data obtained from crowdsourcing (i.e., user-added information) to map out the best -- and worst -- bike routes, all in real time. You can rate certain routes on different safety levels ranging from "avoid" to "very safe." Cyclists from all across the continent can add this data; currently, 90% of it comes from those in 11 different U.S. cities that the app's creators targeted through a marketing campaign. More cities will eventually be added to their roster, which already includes San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Denver, New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and Portland. More than 3,800 different users have rated 12,000-plus roads in just a week's time.
According to the app's creator, the maps will eventually include locations of bike-friendly businesses, fix-it stations, and bike shops. So for those who didn't equip their bikes with comfortable bike seats to begin with may be able to stop off and change that en route. They also eventually plan to add pop-up alerts to warn cyclists of potholes and other road hazards, which means that cyclists can use these alerts and their leather bike seats to prevent saddle soreness or other injuries. Finally, future plans include ratings based on the day and specific times -- for instance, the app could warn against taking a certain route during rush hour -- or factor in a cyclist's skill level to ratings.
Although the creator hopes to make money through advertising and sponsorships, the app will always remain free of charge. Creator Lynsie Campbell, who was inspired to make an app after struggling to choose safe bike routes for her and her young son to take, told Bicycling.com, "Everyone should have access to this information. Let's make the streets safer for everyone."