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byCycle.org Creator Hired by Portland Transit Agency

September 17, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

byCycle.org BikePortland.org reports that the creator of byCycle.org, Wyatt Baldwin, has been hired by the local Portland area transit agency, TriMet (wiki).

Baldwin says he hasn’t been hired to work specifically on byCycle.org for the agecy, but he doesn’t necessarily seem to rule it out either, hinting that he could be trying to bring true multi-modal transport mapping options to the TriMet Trip Planner.

Here’s what BikePortland.org indicates is the status of byCycle.org:

Baldwin says he’s considering “open-sourcing” the code and “releasing it into the wild”. His hope is to let others take over the main development of the tool and he thinks making byCycle open source “will remove certain barriers and lead to a better product overall.”

Of course, our petition mentions byCycle.org specifically (even though we got the list of cities wrong):

The Google Maps-based third party site, byCycle.org (http://byCycle.org/), provides these features for two metro areas - Portland, Oregon and Madison, Wisconsin, and there are countless other mapping initiatives around the world aimed at accomplishing the same goal.

I don’t know the trajectory of byCycle’s development, but I have a good idea of how side projects can go based on my own personal experience. They are often done in the late-night hours, after a full day of work or school. At first you think nothing of dedicating a couple of months to something that you think is so cool, and the initial feedback starts coming in and you’re totally psyched about it all, but then things always need to be improved and fixed and updated, and you want to be a perfectionist because that’s the type of service you want and expect for yourself, but it all just gets to be very, very time consuming—mentally and emotionally exhausting or just plain boring. And then you hit full burnout. The suggestions keep rolling in from well-intentioned people, but you don’t have the time or energy to continue to improve your service; you want your old life back, some free time, and so forth. Do you even respond to an emailed suggestion when all you can manage to say is, “I’m tired,” or, “Sounds good, but that’s a lot of work”? Will people think you are rude? That you just don’t care?

Fortunately, we developer-types have at least one option, and that’s open-sourcing what we’ve done, and it seems like Wyatt is considering this option.

Finding funding is part of why we should all be voting for Bike the City-Pittsburgh once a day over at the Pittsburgh Innovates site. It’s quick and easy, and it might just help push this bike mapping thing forward a bit quicker.

If TriMet is smart, I think they’ll give Wyatt two or three days a week to continue work on byCycle.org, kind of like Google’s 20% time, but increasing it to 50% time.  :)

Already, Wyatt and his partner on the project, Lauren Donohue, have provided an invaluable service to the bicycling community. They led the way (in America, at least), showing that such a bike routing service was possible and valuable. It certainly gave an air of plausability to this feature request and petition, and I’m sure y’all remember having your friends and even fellow bikers tell you, “It can’t be done.” Well, the existence of byCycle.org proved that it could be done. Big task? Yes. Possible? Yes.

Incidentally, I’ve been thinking a bit more about how good technology can affect the world in very positive ways. I told the Google Transit guys at the recent TransitCamp that Google Transit was absolutely excellent. I wasn’t trying to curry favor, either—I think it’s an incredible tool. I got at least one other person saying, “Agreed.” This might sound a bit out there, but I think Google Transit is so good, that it could possibly be deserving of some type of major award—something like a Nobel Prize—if they had one for engineering or environmental impact or something like that. When they add a “Bike There” feature, they can count on my vote.  :)

I have a feeling that very few people know about Google Transit, even in cities and towns where it is available. That’s a shame, and we should try to let people know it’s out there. Here’s a video of the service:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MngAUnhDDbg

Why an award for Google Transit/Google Maps? Because, as the video suggests, “Google Maps makes taking public transit easy.” The convenience of getting transit directions directly from Google Maps is comparable to the ease of hopping on a bicycle with bicycle-sharing systems around the world. Simply put, if we make taking transit easier, more people will take transit, which is good for all of us, even drivers.

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