A new smartphone application for cyclists may prove more useful for Charlottesville area residents than for students
It isn't the greatest invention since the wheel, but a new application for smartphones, the "Cville Bike mApp," could change the way we ride. Developed by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), the free application uses GPS technology and tracks where cyclists travel, and then sends this data to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which will use these grids for planning. The MPO began collecting data Saturday and will continue to do so until May 18. But students should question the project's feasibility.
Charlottesville City Council passed a proclamation in March lending its support to the mApp project. The list of advocates also includes the University, which will host an information session about the program tonight at 5 in Newcomb Hall Gallery.
Given our fossil-fuel dependence and the state of University parking, we are all in favor of on-Grounds biking. Last fall, the University applied for a grant for half-a-million dollars from the Virginia Department of Transportation to fund a bike sharing program called UBikes. The University could hear back about this in May. This grant proposal came after the University had already received a previous grant for $35,000 to work out the UBikes idea. So far, there are no new bicycles. But there is the TJPDC bike app, if students should choose to use it.
The goal of the mApp project is to find out where cyclists are headed. This is an ambitious project in the community, covering trails, shops and suburbs. At the University, however, there are only so many places to travel, and some of those the City would be hard-pressed to make more bicycle-friendly. Moreover, the app requires a set-up before each expedition, and many trips are short distance and not worth the hassle. Other, longer trips may be worthwhile, and students will be left to determine when using the tracker is appropriate.
To be sure, the MPO will gain useful information during this month of data collecting. The University can take steps, such as adding more racks, which could improve the lives of student cyclists more than the MPO's mApp. In addition to this project, other methods can be used to gather information on the habits of cyclists.