The Right Ride: A Collaborative Map for Safer Biking in Boston

Earlier this week, Nancy M. pointed me to a new Google mashup called The Right Ride, designed to allow users to document dangers spots for bikers by adding annotations to a map. Chris Briaotta created the site in response to the recent death of two Boston cyclists, and it gives fellow bikers a way to share important information gleaned from their everyday experience of navigating through Boston’s often mean streets.

Two articles describe the site:

I find it interesting that both articles refer to the site as a “wiki” though it seems clear that the site is more accurately described as a map-based mashup, since information is not editable by everyone and revision are not tracked, etc. This fudging of terms may not matter to the averager reader, but I find it curious that the term “wiki” is used here to denote any effort at collaborative knowledge-making online,when in fact there are many web-based tools that allow for this without them being wikis.

The comments on the Boston NOW article led me to Governor Deval Patrick’s website where citizens are able to post issues and invite others show their support by “voting,” in this case on the issues of bike lanes: In good social media fashion, the site enabled me, to create my account and post my vote: “I’m a daily bike commuter with a fairly safe route, but I ofter bike to other parts of the city that are much less safe. Until space for biking is built into the fabric of the city, motorists will continue to treat us like second-class citizens who don’t belong on the road. Bike lanes are simply the civilized thing to do. It’s time for Boston to begin making changes.”

While it’s often difficult to sort through the overblown “Web 2.0” hype, these sites make it easier to excited about the democratic potential of participatory media to help strengthen local communities. As long as I don’t allow my “vote” on the bike lane issue to substitute for other, more more substantive forms of political action, I can see how this and the Right Ride site play their part in helping us work toward change in the places that matter to us.