Cyclists helping cyclists by pointing out dangers, reporting crime and referencing cycle friendly infrastructure on an interactive map
Pitch us on your solution
Urban cycling is not only environmentally sustainable, it is also one of the most equitable means of transportation. It allows low income communities to access education and work opportunities, especially for girls and women that would otherwise be confined to their place of residence.
But in developing developing countries, cycling can be (or feel) very unsafe due to high rates of crime and sexual harassment, making fear one of the major barriers for this transportation mode.
To improve people’s safety and confidence while choosing to cycle, the BISEIF application provides a tool for collective awareness, where cyclists can point out dangers, report crime and reference infrastructure on a map, informing fellow cyclists of safe and pleasant bike friendly routes.
Collected data will inform how insecurity affects this vulnerable group of travelers and allow decision makers to prioritize infrastructure investments that can change millions of lives, especially for women and girls.
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What is the problem you are solving?
Promoting urban cycling is one of the main strategies that cities have to fight air pollution, public space congestion, traffic accidents and social inequity; as well as promoting a healthier lifestyle. To achieve a successful mobility shift towards cycling it is necessary to obtain detailed information about cyclists' experiences, challenges, needs and infrastructure requirements.
Within this framework, fear has been identified as one of the main barriers for cycling. This barrier relates to the fear of becoming a victim of violence more than road safety and it particularly relates to sexual harassment, affecting millions of low-income women and girls (Gomez, 2000; World Bank, 2002; CAF, 2011; FIA Foundation, 2016).
In developing countries, the collection of cycling safety data is difficult, since the documentation of accidents or crimes involving cyclists is rare, poorly organized and not geo-referenced. It is estimated that only 35% to 88% of incidents involving cyclists are officially reported (Hook, W. 2005). This is because the victims fear being arrested or fined, and the authorities are not trained to collect specific data about these types of incidents, making the problem invisible to policy makers.
Who are you serving?
In Latin America, women have fewer economic alternatives for transportation than men (CAF, 2011). Not being able to cycle will significantly affect women’s quality of life and that of their family, reducing their economic opportunities, increasing inequality and social exclusion.
In Latin American cities, recent studies (CAF, 2011; FIA Foundation, 2016) indicate that 64% of the interviewees feel insecure in their trips, 72% being women. Most travelers have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, 89% of women have been harassed at least once and 49% of them have suffered it in the last 12 months. But this is not limited to developing countries, 96% of sexual harassment in transport situations New York is not reported, while in Germany 66% of women using Public Transportation said they have suffered physical harassment.
While developing my PhD thesis on accessibility, I found that there was no available data on urban cycling in my city, and while gathering data myself I understood that the biggest barrier to cycling was fear. Since then, I have worked with local and international stakeholders to understand how personal safety affects the decision to cycle, how related it is to gender, and how this problem can be tackled through community participation.
What is your solution?
BISEIF is a smartphone application that allows cyclists to report crimes, accidents and infrastructure related to their cycling trips in a spatial platform, a map. This platform will allow other cyclists to make a safe travel strategy after a quick, visual recognition.
The application also offers similar features to other applications for cyclists, such as distance calculation, average speed, slope and travel time. However, the innovation lies in providing the user with the possibility of reporting situations under the categories of Crime, Accident or Good News. Within these categories the user chooses the location of the incident, can write a short description and upload photos of the incident.
It is expected that eventually many routes will be safer through a “critical mass” effect, improving the lives of low-income population that cannot access safer means of transportation. Eventually a whole suite of stakeholders that support cycling, such as food vendors, repair shops, etc. will be able to deploy themselves along highly traveled paths to further increase visibility, safety and economic development.
At a more advanced stage, this app will be able to predict personal safety based on the data generated by users blended with algorithms that relate this data to infrastructure, time of day, commercial density, etc. The app will also tackle traffic safety by combining traffic stress information from google maps (e.g. number of lanes, surrounding vehicle speed, slope) with user generated data on cycling incidents.
The BISEIF app will generate valuable cyclist data in countries where it is rarely collected. Cyclist specific data will be publicly published in an open access manner, enabling scientists and policymakers to generate Origin-Destination matrixes and understand the needs and requirements of this vulnerable group of travelers both for policy making and urban design.
We expect that the application will reduce the fear of cycling while providing real information from cyclist peers, eventually augmenting the cyclist population in developing countries.
The application is based on the Google Maps API, which provides us with an online cartography service for the dissemination of data in real time.
Currently the application is in a MVP from, in Google Play Store as a beta version, not yet having user-generated data.
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Where is your solution team headquartered?Mendoza, Capital Department, Mendoza Province, Argentina
Our solution's stage of development:
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Describe what makes your solution innovative.
BISEIF is different from other cycling apps because it allows users to reference criminal events in a biking route (such as sexual harassment, theft, attack and assaults - even animal attacks!). Civil safety while cycling has not been a priority to first-world made apps, but it is a limiting reality to cycling in developing countries. BISEIF will still have similar functionalities to existing apps, but focused on all dimensions of cyclist safety, not only traffic safety.
In Latin America, non-lethal accidents involving cyclists are rarely reported, documented and/or geo-referenced. This is mostly because the system does not provide effective response to these incidents. But these denounces do happen in social media: people take the time to write about issues, post pictures and ask for help. This valuable information is currently dispersed and scattered in the world wide web, if we collect it and put it on a map we will provide highly valuable information for existing cyclists and nudge other travelers into overcoming the fear of urban cycling.
Our vision is that when enough user-generated information is collected, an evolving cycling safety index could be developed using computer algorithms and color-code routes on a map.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
BISEIF is a smartphone application, currently programmed for Android operating systems (Android has more penetration than IOS in developing countries - but it will be made available for the main platforms in the next phase).
The BISEIF platform is web-based and uses google maps API as a base map, integrating existing information. We expect to use machine learning algorithms for some functionalities of the next version. BISEIF gets some information from social networks and is link for information sharing.
On the user side, it requires a smartphone with geo-location, camera and accelerometer, the last one not being used in the beta version. Automated travel behavior recognition will be available in the next phase.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
The following statements are exerpts of research published by Landis et al., 1997; US Federal Highway Administration, 1998; Garrarda et al., 2008; Gomez, 2000; World Bank, 2002; Hook, 2005; CAF, 2011; and FIA Foundation, 2016; focus groups and survey results (Barón, 2016, 2017,2018).
By providing citizens with a digital platform that helps them visualize and share their cycling experiences within a map, they can inform each other for safer travel strategies.
By visualizing and geo-locating the problems that urban cyclists face in relation to personal, traffic and infrastructure safety, better policy and resource allocation can be made in the most needed places for this vulnerable group of travelers.
By making safer routes visible, more people will converge on these routes and a critical mass effect could happen, making these routes even safer over time.
By making cycling safer, vulnerable groups of low-income women and girls will be able to study or work, improving economic and gender equality.
By making cycling feel safer, citizens may shift from their motorized travel choices into cycling, freeing urban space, generating less air pollution, lowering mortality rates, and adopting healthier habits.
If more people choose to cycle, cities will become more livable and safe.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
The following estimates are based on a 30% penetration of the app for the bicycle owner population. According to Vasconcellos (2010) in his mobility study for CAF, 10% of the population of an average city owns a bicycle.
In one year we expect to be serving 30% of bicycle owners in Argentina who will be directly affected: that is 1.3 million people.
Within 5 years, if we reach Brasil, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Ecuador, we could be serving 45.8 million bicycle owners, if we estimate that only 30% of those are affected, we will serve 13.7 million people.
If we could get to India and African countries, these numbers can soar!
We also envision that pedestrians, public transport users and a small share of private vehicle users will start cycling because of the app, making these numbers go up.
Right now the app is in a prototype version, it has not been advertised and does not have any user-generated content; thus we are not serving our target population yet.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Within the next year we plan to test and improve the prototype of BISEIF, fixing bugs and updating the technology and making an iphone version. We also need to create a business plan to make the app development feasible and sustainable over time.
Once the improved version is obtained and we have a way to support the app financially, we will promote it in Cycling Forums around Latin America, focusing in Argentina. We will also plan to partner with different city councils of the region. Through each version, we will collect better feedback from users and make continuous bug fixes and improvements.
In the next 5 five years we will partner with new communities and organizations for launching the application in other countries, starting with, but not limited to Latin America.
Throughout the whole process, we will partner with research institutions and publish white papers, scientific articles and popular literature to share results of our experience advocating for cyclist safety, analyzing data, and making data available to everyone.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
The main barrier is financial. Since this project was born as part of a PhD thesis, we have not yet sought funding properly.
Secondly, we need to design a suitable business model to support the organization financially over the years and understand adequate revenue channels for this kind of app. We will need help for making BISEIF a business. We will also need to market it correctly since we depend on user-generated content.
We also have to find the best way to overcome a cultural/legal barrier related to crime reporting. BISEIF is intended for raising social awareness, and reporting crime in BISEIF does not constitute a formal police report. Nevertheless, we understand that elements of the data generated by the application could be used as evidence in case and/or a formal report. Sensitive data protection must be carefully analyzed to ensure user privacy and freedom.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
Financial Barrier: Right now the BISEIF project is being promoted by Resolve Conservation, a mission aligned US based company that has an affiliate NGO focused on improving the lives within communities and particularly gender minorities. We are currently focusing on presenting BISEIF for some seed funding in order to make a dedicated startup company.
Business model and marketing: If we get dedicated funding for BISEIF we will try to join a startup advisory program (many are free in Argentina). Once we have a tested prototype and a business model we intend on partnering with bigger companies/apply for grants in order to focus on the marketing phase.
Cultural/legal barrier: in order to overcome the issues described above, we plan to seek legal guidance. We will also hold user focus groups to understand the experiential dimension of the reporting process and application use in general. We plan to continuously collect user feedback and make constant improvements, therefore the service may change overtime adapting to user responses.
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If you selected Other for the organization question, please explain here.
How many people work on your solution team?
We have four full time staff, four part time staff, two contractors and access to a network of contractors. We also have a partnership with a tech company that would be able to further develop the application if needed.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
The solution will be initially rolled out in Argentina, where two of our members come from. Gabriela, who has developed the research for the solution as part of her PhD project is a member of our organization. We are a team of designers, conservationists and social scientists. Because two of us are originally from Argentina, we are highly connected there with access to the end user and their social networks. We understand the cultural differences and the every day challenges Argentinians and South Americans face and we speak their language. We have experience working for government, academia and NGOs. We also have access to Argentinean talent, with direct access to one of the largest universities in Argentina (Universidad National de Cuyo). We have working relationships with different cycling, transportation and gender related organizations throughout Latin America.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
We are currently partnering with Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, particularly the Design School and the Engineering school. We have access to students that can help develop the application and develop marketing strategies.
What is your business model?
We will serve people that need to commute and could use bicycles to do it (impact), particularly underserved communities, girls and women that need to access education and work opportunities in a safe and reliable manner. With this app, we aim to increase access to services and also improve the health of the users in urban areas. We will also serve business that can advertise on the app or take advantage of understanding bike routes and usage to sell directly to the users, such as restaurants and bike shops (revenue). The product we provide is a map of safe bicycle routes for users and a place to report issues such as crime and unsafe infrastructure, the app will sell advertisement opportunities for retailers and services, and also government and social organizations that want to communicate with this specific audience. Although we would like for the data collected to be available to governments and organizations so they can improve infrastructure and safety, some of the data could be sold if we need to (as allowed by the users and protecting their privacy).
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We are interested in diverse sources of funding. We think we could initially seek grants and donations due to the social impact nature of the app, this would allow us to make data available to governments and NGOs that can improve bike route safety and infrastructure at low or no cost. The app could have great impact for underserved communities, particularly women that have limited access to education or work opportunities due to unsafe transportation methods. Once the app is running and has been adopted by a critical mass of users, we are planning on selling advertising in the application. Although this is our initial plan, we are open to raising investment capital if the other options prove not to be valuable. The truth is that we need to better develop the business model, that is why we are applying to MIT SOLVE after all.
Why are you applying to Solve?
We are applying to SOLVE because we need more than just funding, we need mentorship, guidance and access to possible partners and the appropriate network. We believe in our solution, but do not have the right contacts to make it a reality and scale it to the level we want to scale it. Biseif does not have to be limited to Latin America, it could be used in Africa and Asia where circumstances are similar or even more dire than South America, particularly for women that get regularly attacked in their commute to work and school. We are scientists and thinkers, we need support developing our business plan and putting this idea in front of the right people, we need feedback, advice and ultimately opportunities to partner with organizations that will help us make Biseif a reality. We are hoping that SOLVE will give us a platform to do just that, and that we will be able to stand on the network of support that it offers, to fully develop Biseif as a global, social solution.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
We are interested in partnering with some large philanthropic organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for funding. We would like to have the option of providing governments and non for profit organization the collected data free of charge so that they can plan and implement solutions in problem cycling routes. We know that this may not be an option if we get funding from organizations that are expecting a big return on their investments.
We also want to partner with smaller, local organizations that can help Biseif penetrate the market, so that it can be co-created with the users as we reiterate versions of it, and it can become sustainable on its own.
We do not see Biseif as a way to get rich, this is truly a solution to a problem that we see and we want to address.
If you would like to apply for the AI Innovations Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If you are not already using AI in your solution, explain why it is necessary for your solution to be successful and how you plan to incorporate it.
If you would like to apply for the Innovating Together for Healthy Cities Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
If you would like to apply for the Everytown for Gun Safety Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
If you would like to apply for the Innovation for Women Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
We know that access to education, health and work is dependent on transportation. But transportation can be risky, particularly for girls and women. Many girls and women forgo education or have to accept less remunerable jobs because the risk of commuting to better opportunities is too great. We aim to reduce this disparity with Biseif. Biseif will be co-created with the women that will use it, making sure we truly understand the needs and challenges these woman face. Biseif will also bring attention to the issues they are facing and the responsibility of each segment of society on improving safety, infrastructure and overall access to overcome inequality. We feel our application closely aligns with the Innovation for Women prize and we would greatly benefit from having access to it.
If we were to win this prize we will have the initial funds needed for development and marketing. The media exposure will benefit us enormously, enabling us to speak at gender and social equality international events, and possibly running workshops for initial testing phases with the right stakeholders, co-creating specific app features through for women and girls. We would also hire local women that can further develop the add and can serve (with us) as mentors to girls interested in this type fo work.
If you would like to apply for the Innospark Ventures Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If your solution utilizes data, describe how you will ensure that the data is sourced, maintained, and used ethically and responsibly.
If you would like to apply for the UN Women She Innovates Prize for Gender-Responsive Innovation, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.