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Columbia St. Requested Bike Racks - And Got 35

With the help of an open-government website, the community got what it wanted.

Residents of Columbia Street really wanted bike racks - so they made a lot of noise.

In fact, they made so much noise that the Department of Transportation, in an unannounced visit in early June, responded by installing 35 new racks.

"I was walking my dog one morning, on a totally residential street, and they were installed all up and down the street!" said Brad Kerr, Vice President of the Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association. "They didn't distribute them sparingly."

Residents began requesting the racks about a year ago, said Kerr. They went through the usual avenues - the DOT website, 311 - but also used the website SeeClickFix to map the locations of each requested bike rack.

It all started because a neighbor of Kerr's wanted a bike rack in from of his apartment. Kerr got in touch with Dave "Paco" Abraham, a member of the Cobble Hill Association and of Transportation Alternatives, the cycling advocacy group, who then put Kerr in touch with Daniel Latorre, an open-source web software designer and biking enthusiast.

Latorre had already been working on developing a web product to map out bike rack requests called Fix City, and when he was asked to help with the Columbia Street project, he suggested using SeeClickFix, which is more developed and more widely used.

SeeClickFix is a public, visible forum for residents to ask questions and make requests of their goverment.

It's "a social 311," said Latorre. "It's all transparent. Everyone can see everything."

The way it works: a citizen puts in a ticket requesting for a bike rack, and can then see all the other requests for bike racks in the area. The same goes for a host of other questions or complaints, including construction issues and lack of heat or hot water.

So Latorre, Abraham and Kerr, along with 10 other residents, " fanned across the neighborhood," armed with smart phones, said Kerr. They put in their requests, and then waited.

And now, a year later, residents are thrilled.

"We don't need bikes sloppily chained to any random pole or blocking the sidewalk for pedestrians," said Abraham. "We want a robust system of citywide bicycle infrastructure and bike racks... many, many bike racks... are a part of that."

While the DOT says they did not specifically use SeeClickFix to determine where to install the racks, a spokesperson said the requests on the site reflect what they had received through the normal channels, like 311 and the DOT website.

Kerr says he is very happy with the way things turned out.

"The more I looked, the more I saw," he said of the morning he discovered the installed racks. "The more I walked, the more I saw."

maria pagano June 30, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Great teamwork, CoWNA and CHA! Thanks for the heads up about SeeClickFix, too. Wonderful results- 35 bike racks just where you asked for them. Well done! Maria
steven June 30, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Thiefs are stealing bikes left and right in this neighborhood - I'm all for bike racks but would like to see some of these thieves caught and prosecuted
maria pagano June 30, 2011 at 07:45 PM
I have heard some about the "retrieval" end of bike snatching, but I would really like to know what works in catching the theives,too. Anyone have success stories? The 76th has recommended "labelling" each bike at the police station, but I don't know of any place that has a better than average record of catching the theives- red handed or not. I would like to hear more. Maria
Anthony June 30, 2011 at 08:44 PM
The money could have been better used on something other than bike racks.
Rob June 30, 2011 at 08:47 PM
I would have preferred that they were installed on the Greenway side of the street rather than right in front of my home.

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