When challenged to come up with a way to inspire more people to bike for transportation in addition to recreation, three three "former non-bikers" from New York City proposed a campaign to focus on mutual respect between drivers and bikers. The team, calling itself "!ola," was one of four competitors in a contest sponsored by Yoxi, a new site dedicated to social innovation. In its debut competition, Yoxi (pronounced yo-see) posed this question:
How can we make our cities more welcoming to bikers? How can we encourage more people to ride a bike when they can?
The solution could come in many forms: a product, program, device, game, movement, or competition. It could involve new business models and bike sharing; new bike design that's safer and more comfortable or government-funded workshops to teach people better biking. Whatever it is, it's got to be smart and have mass appeal.
The competition featured four teams, each of which entered a series of videos presenting their views on the challenges of urban biking, as well as a final "pitch" for a concrete idea to face those challenges. !ola, made up of Ozge Kirimlioglu, Liesje Hodgson, and Angela Chen, was one of four teams competing in the better biking challenge, proposed a "campaign for better biking" that would focus on the ideas of mutual respect between bikers and drivers, improved visibility, and resourcefulness (designing clothes to make bike commuting more practical).
!ola's plans included a jacket with openings to cool your armpits while biking, dressing up a bike as a car to draw attention to the presence of bicyclists in urban settings, and sticking a big pink arrow on the back of a bike to make it more visible. The team writes:
The simplest way to get people on bikes isn't through legislation, more bike lanes, or technology but a change in attitude. Team !ola proposes a multi-platform, character-driven campaign that highlights biking-related issues in unexpected ways. Standing in a bike lane? A glance at the nearby pink arrow poster will remind you to step out of the way. By shifting perspectives, we intend to foster safer, more enjoyable biking conditions and encourage you to hit the road on a regular basis.
Entries from the other teams included Zip It, a bike-share for NYC that would use Zipcar's existing infrastructure, Bike Pool, a faux-dating service for those looking for someone to ride and someone to ride, and the eventual winner: Bike Tab, a mobile application that hooks you up with other cyclists:
Urban Futurists, the team behind Bike Tab, received a $5,000 reward, which they chose to donate to Recycle-a-Biclycle. It's unclear whether or not they or the other teams will have the opportunity to turn their ideas into reality, but we can always hope. In the meantime, Yoxi is getting ready for a another social change competition, and is taking votes on what the challenge should be.