Transportation and tech collide in our latest podcast

Transportation and tech collide in our latest podcast

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Left to right: Michael Andersen, Mychal Tetteh, Noel Mickelberry, William Henderson and Chris Smith.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The BikePortland Podcast has returned with a vengeance.

It’s been several months since we last shared an episode. To make up for our hiatus, last week (with the help of some friends) we recorded a live episode at the headquarters of Simple in northwest Portland.

“Apple needs to be called out for sucking. They didn’t know the Tilikum Crossing was a thing until a few weeks ago.”
— William Henderson

Our Producer Lily Karabaic put together a solid show about the intersection of technology and transportation. It was moderated by our News Editor Michael Andersen who led a fantastic discussion with four special guests: William Henderson of Knock Software (makers of the Ride Report app); Noel Mickelberry from Oregon Walks; Mychal Tetteh from the Community Cycling Center; and Chris Smith, a technologist, blogger, and citizen activist who also happens to be on the Portland Planning Commission.

The first question they answerwed was: Which technology has done more for people who have a low-car life: Apple, Amazon, or Google?

Smith said Amazon because he uses it instead of going to the store. “But,” he added, “has that been a net VMT [vehicle miles traveled] benefit? That remains to be seen.”

In contrast, Henderson said Google should get the reward because they’ve done the most to make transit data available to the public. “And Apple needs to be called out for sucking,” he added, to a cheers and jeers from the live audience, “they didn’t know the Tilikum Crossing was a thing until a few weeks ago.”


Other topics included how city planners are using (or aren’t using) new forms of user-generated traffic data. With all smartphones essentially being beacons, Chris Smith shared, “We could have wireless pedestrian counters sitting at every corner giving us data about where curbs are needed most.”

And then there’s the tricky issue of the risk of “digital redlining” where the use of new tools leaves entire swaths of the population at the side of the road. Or the increasing use of datasets like Strava, which have a clear bias toward one type of user and activity.

Tetteh with the Community Cycling Center said he’s concerned that some technologies will lead to incorrect decisions about where transportation investments are needed. “For us to not focus our time, attention and resources where people have those challenges and bariers — where’s there huge opportunity for growth in ridership — it’s just not smart. It shouldn’t just tug at your hearstrings it should tug at our pocketbooks.”

When asked about their dream app, Noel Mickelberry from Oregon Walks had our current storm on her mind. “How about an app that will detect when leaves are blocking your storm drain and proactively unclog it,” she said with a smile.

Watch or listen below…

You can subscribe to our monthly podcast with Stitcher or iTunes, subscribe by RSS, sign up to get an email notification each time we upload a new episode, or just listen to it above using Libsyn.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


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