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Can Videos Of Dangerous Biking Conditions Change Public Policy? RideReel App Asks Cyclists To Record ‘Hostile’ Run-Ins

A web developer hopes to produce weekly reports for elected officials, documenting hot spots for close-calls. "Maybe that's what will finally create change," he said.

Bike courier Angel Avado poses for a photo at the intersection of Milwaukee and Central Park avenues on Oct. 26, 2022, near where he was doored by a driver.
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CHICAGO — A local web developer is working on an app that will collect videos of the city’s “hostile bike infrastructure.”

Avid bicyclist Ben Harvey is beta testing RideReel, an app that will ask bicyclists to upload videos of “scary situations” they have on Chicago roads and bike lanes, he said. Their reports will be plotted on a city map to track trends.

Cyclists have long criticized the city’s patchwork of bike lanes, with dozens of crashes that have injured and killed people on bikes.

RELATED: Drivers Caught On Camera Blocking Bike Lanes Downtown Could Soon Be Ticketed

The parents of 3-year-old Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook, who was killed while riding with her mom in Uptown, filed a wrongful death lawsuit this week, saying the city has “deficient” enforcement rules to stop drivers from blocking bike lanes.

Harvey said too often the city deflects blame to bad drivers instead of its own infrastructure, which creates precarious conditions for bicyclists who have to share roads with drivers.

Uploads to RideReel will “make the evidence undeniable,” Harvey said.

“We hear about these incidents all the time, but it’ll be different when you’re watching them,” Harvey said. “We want to show elected officials what it’s actually like to bike in Chicago.”

Harvey, who is a member of activist group Chicago, Bike Grid Now!, said he hopes policy makers will review the app to identify hot spots that need more protective measures.

That could include speed bumps, bump-outs, stricter speed limits and protected bike lanes, Harvey said.

RELATED: Life And Death In Chicago’s Most Dangerous Bike Lane

“Chicago has a high potential to be the best bike city in the U.S. It’s flat, and we have the grid already laid out,” Harvey said. “There’s no reason we can’t convert some side streets to be people-focused and not car-centric.”

Harvey is running the app now with a small test group and hopes to launch it across the city within the next month, he said.

He is encouraging bicyclists to get a phone mount and download a dash cam app if they chose to record their rides.

“We’re better safe than sorry,” Harvey said. “If aldermen see a weekly report with videos of scary bike incidents, maybe that’s what will finally create change.”

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