Give a Beep About City Cycling Safety

Imagine being able to press a button on your bike to send the mayor a message every time you encounter unsafe or worrisome cycling conditions. A new city cycling safety campaign in London called Give a Beep empowers riders to do just that. Using a wireless, smartphone-connected device (above on handlebars), Londoners-on-the-go can send Mayor Sadiq Khan, who took office in early May, an email reminder of his commitment to making London more bike friendly.

The project, which simultaneously plots the locations of riders’ “beeps” and records them on a real-time map, also serves as an example of a creative partnership in the public interest between business and advocacy.

Give A Beep London Cycling Safety

Give a Beep is sponsored by Hövding, the Swedish inventor of the airbag helmet, in partnership with the London Cycling Campaign, a not-for-profit, membership organization that serves as a voice for cycling in London. The project seeks to unite regular bike riders, literally in a hands-on way, behind efforts to make bicycling safer and more enjoyable.

This video provides details:

It’s a reaction to frustration about risks to cyclists in London and an appeal to the mayor to fulfill his pledge “to make London a byword for cycling around the world.” Advocates are calling for building on the momentum of Khan’s predecessor, the pro-cycling Mayor Boris Johnson, by improving infrastructure and also addressing issues such as truck blind spots, which have been implicated in fatal crashes.

Give A Beep Button

How does Give a Beep work? Participants attach a small device called a Flic wireless smart button to their bicycles. It’s connected to a smartphone app. When a user presses the button, a message is sent to the mayor’s office. (Picture NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio receiving a #visionzero prompt.) At the same time, the location of dangerous streets, intersections and areas where Londoners feel unsafe are logged on a real-time map. About 500 buttons have been distributed free thus far.

As tracking and communications technology becomes more sophisticated and also less expensive, so do the opportunities to gather data that can help improve cycling safety and the overall quality of life in increasingly congested cities. And all the better, if it’s participatory.

This opens the door for strategic thinking about new alliances among a variety of  stakeholders. One wonders, for example, if some of the funding that has traditionally been channeled by the bicycle industry to professional cycling might begin to find its way to the support and promotion of urban cycling — notably in the face of widespread evidence that having safe places to ride would encourage more people, and especially women, to embrace bicycling and to ride more often. Or, whether such initiatives might be a good fit for forward-thinking marketers among major lifestyle brands.

Along these lines, Give a Beep is more than a clever slogan and campaign — it’s also a thought-starter.

Learn more about the Give a Beep Beep campaign.

Readers: What are your thoughts?

Photos: Hövding 

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