Could This New Cycling App Actually Make City Streets Safer?

This crowdsourced data app could finally punish that guy who parks in the bike lane

At times it can feel as though the entire world revolves around the driver, even in big cities like New York or Toronto. From insufficient funding for bike infrastructure to overly aggressive drivers, city streets can be a minefield for cyclists. And even when cyclists do succeed in getting a lane of their very own, drivers and delivery trucks park in that lane with total disregard for the safety of cyclists.

One app is trying to change that. TowIt is a crowdsourced data app that allows users to report parking violations (those pesky cars taking up room in the bike lane) and dangerous driving (that guy that almost just took you out) in real time. Though it wasn’t made only for cyclists, it’s been a hit in the cycling community.

To use TowIt, download the app and then when you spot a truck parked in the bike lane take a photo of the scene (licence plate and street sign, if possible). When you upload the photo, it will be added to the map. Right now, the app acts mostly as a shaming method for illegal parkers and a sort of catharsis for frustrated cyclists, but according to the apps founder, Michael McArthur, they are working on improving technology to make the app more functional. First, they hope to eventually assist police officers in ticketing vehicles remotely based on the photo, so an officer could order a tow truck remotely and they also help to assist drivers in the future, having the app notify them of where they can and cannot legally park.

The app developed in Toronto has a strong presence there, but it’s growing to include users in other cities. It will be interesting to see how this technology changes bike commuting in Toronto and hopefully, spreads safer parking and driving habits to other cities.