Neutral Cycle app wages campaign against bicycle crime

Neutral+Cycle+functions+as+a+bike+shop+that+serves+the+campus+community

Tiffany Zhang

Neutral Cycle functions as a bike shop that serves the campus community

By Will Gerard, Staff Writer

Take a moment and imagine your bicycle has been stolen. How would you go about recovering it? This is a problem Ricardo Pierre-Louis and the rest of his team at Neutral Cycle are attempting to resolve through the development of BikeNet, a “bike crime fighting app designed to improve and fine-tune the bike-recovery system.”

The idea for BikeNet came from an experience similar to the above hypothetical scenario. Pierre-Louis and a few others were at the bike shop when a friend posted on Facebook their special self-customized bike had been stolen.

“(the bike)  was really small. She’s like five feet tall,” Pierre-Louis said.

The group went in search of the stolen bike after seeing another person comment on the original post that they had seen it at a Taco Bell. The group didn’t find it once they arrived – but this is not where the story ends. They were unsuccessful because someone from The Bike Project had already recovered the prized bicycle.

“We realized people are using social media and a bunch of other different digital tools to communicate about a bunch of different things, crime and theft included,” Pierre-Louis said. “We thought we could utilize all of these tools in one centralized place.”

The campaign to raise funds kicked off Friday. There is a beta version of the app with the intention to fully launch in the fall, which is one of the highest reported seasons of bike crime.

Research by Neutral Cycle found “$143,107 worth of bicycles were reported stolen over a two-year period in Champaign-Urbana alone.”

BikeNet is designed to encourage owners to register their bicycles and report any witnessed suspected acts of theft. Unlike other popular apps, BikeNet will not be dependent on serial numbers and instead have a focus on bike’s characteristics through the aid of pictures.

Reported missing bicycles will appear to users on a community activity feed.

“Imagine the ability to get a push notification if a stolen bike was reported in your area,” Pierre-Louis said. “There’s tremendous potential in having eyes and ears on your bicycle. If people are constantly looking out for each other everyone will have a better peace of mind.”

Neutral Cycle’s $40,000 goal will go toward paying other developers and members of the design team once BikeNet has been officially released to the app store. The program will appear online regardless of the campaign’s success.

If all goes according to plan, through the use of a smartphone, you may no longer have to worry about being unable to recover a stolen bicycle.