Pokemon Go has gamified cycling. The new app that’s taking the world by storm also happens to be great to play by bike. As more and more people realize this, the game could do more to encourage biking — especially among young people — than decades of advocacy.
I haven’t tried it myself but I’ve been monitoring chatter about bikes on the internet long enough to know when something big has happened. And it has.
The game itself is really interesting. It uses a combination of your smartphone’s map and camera to “augment reality” by placing the game’s features right on the streets where you live, work, and play. When it first hit the news all the reports were about people playing it on foot. We then started hearing about people playing while driving (bad idea!). And now it appears that a bicycle is the secret Pokemon Go weapon.
Here’s Bicycling Magazine writer (and Portland resident) Caitlin Giddings explaining why bikes and Pokemon go so well together:
Not only has my bike allowed me to access Pokéstops more quickly—so it’s easy to stock up on Pokéballs and other items—but it’s also proved invaluable in hatching eggs. Eggs are items you can find at Pokéstops. To hatch them into Pokémon, you have to walk (or even better, ride) a certain distance—between two to 10 km, as measured by your phone’s accelerometer. Eggs won’t hatch if you’re traveling that distance in a car—so you essentially have to get outside and use your own body to get the job done. On foot, this can take a while because you have to leave the app open the entire time for your steps to count. But on a bike? I think you know where I’m going with this.
Although not really a cycling app, Pokémon Go is the first cycling-adjacent app I’ve ever given a damn about
Giddings has written a great primer about how to do Pokemon by bike.
Lifehacker also a post up about how to turn your bike into a “PokeBike.” The author of that piece said, “The first time I hopped on my PokéBike, I felt the same giddiness I had when I was a kid pretending to chase imaginary monsters in my neighborhood. I hope you get the same kind of joy out of yours.”
Making biking fun is one of the most powerful ways to get people riding.
Like $5 gasoline or the Naked Bike Ride, Pokemon Go has people who haven’t ridden in years suddenly dusting off their saddles and filling up the air in their tires to go for a spin.
For the last day or so I’ve been watching the Pokemon bike Twitter stream…
"Ashley we're going for a bike ride I need more Pokémon" pic.twitter.com/3Jxy0mh6OQ
— Amber Schneider (@aschneidie) July 14, 2016
Never thought I'd be spending an hour trying to fix my bike so I could catch Pokemon…
— noah mcmurrin (@Nmicky22) July 14, 2016
My grandparents are really mad bc I asked them to blow up my bike tires to go get Pokemon. Like last week you bitched bc I'm always inside?
— The Lioness (@Manda_IsNoJoke) July 14, 2016
My friend is trying to buy a bike to go Pokemon hunting
— Jasmine Cook (@jasminealexus) July 14, 2016
The stream is packed with people who don’t normally bike but say they’re eager to get rolling just to play. Isn’t that awesome?!
What isn’t awesome is all the crashes I’ve seen on that stream — that involve both the players themselves and the people around them. If you play by bike, make sure you read those posts from Bicycling Magazine and Lifehacker. Both of them have safety tips (like learn how to play on foot before your ride, use a handlebar mount for your phone, only play on low-traffic streets, stop often, and so on).
Have you played this game yet? How about by bike? Do you think it will significantly change people’s walking and biking habits?
I think if it’s played safely, this game could be a huge boon for biking in America. Even if the game is a passing fad, there will surely be others. And as many of you know, once you start riding a bike you never want the fun to end.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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