Mike Honnold could have been the seventh generation of his family to pursue farming, but the Kansas, Illinois, native decided to study industrial technology instead. Today he works as an engineer for Caterpillar in Peoria. A former president of the Illinois Valley Wheelm’n (the “e” is non-existent), he rides thousands of miles each year. Before taking on the presidency, Honnold helped produce the club’s Routes & Recipes book, which was distributed at area bicycle shops. (You’ll find six of the book’s central Illinois maps here.) One of his newest pursuits is Where’s the Rack, Peoria? an Internet-based map of Peoria-area bike racks. I emailed Mike for a little background on the map and its genesis.
Where did you get the idea for Where’s the Rack, Peoria?
I was discussing the idea one day with Tim Beeney (previous owner of Bicycle Bus on Main Street in Peoria), because he’d seen news of a website where people could list locations of where bike racks SHOULD be installed in the Bloomington/Normal area. I figured if people were going to take the time to report locations where bike racks should be, they might as well also be taking the time to report locations of racks already placed.
In addition, there have been numerous times where I’ve ridden my bike to a location in Peoria only to be unable to find a suitable bike rack once I arrived. If there were an online source where residents of Peoria could look to see if a rack was waiting for their bikes, they might be more likely to ride their bike around town.
Why is it important to track Peoria’s bike racks?
This is information the cyclists of Peoria NEED to know. Most of the time, bike racks aren’t placed in the most visible of locations and can be quite difficult to find. If people know where these racks are before they go out, they may be encouraged to use their bicycles for transportation around town, instead of their automobiles.
I was actually quite surprised when I started to actively look for racks to place on my website, because there are more around town than you would think. We’ve only been tracking racks since December of 2012 and already have 89 mapped out. Once the weather gets a little warmer, I hope to organize bike rides for others to help me actively seek out new racks around town.
For those of us who treat a computer like a typewriter and the Internet like a TV, how was the site constructed?
On a cold/blustery December afternoon (much like the weather will likely be tomorrow, in March), I suddenly was inspired to head out to godaddy.com and purchase the naming rights to wherestherack.org. Purchasing an internet domain name is much like applying for a patent: once you secure your rights to the name nobody else can legally claim it. After giving Go Daddy my 24 dollars for the next two years of domain ownership, I headed off to Google to quickly create my own free website so there would be a place for people to view my Google map.
When I see a new rack site in Peoria, I note the location, and when I sit down at my computer back home, I drop a “pin” on the map and write a short description of the rack location so others can find it. On the website, I also have an e-mail address and submission form so others can submit rack locations to me if they spot one I haven’t been to yet. Of course I also created a Facebook page for the website since everybody’s brother has one of those now.
What are your goals for the site?
My first goal of the website is to map every possible location in Peoria proper, within reason. Once I have the majority of locations mapped out, I would like to dive into the data, and come up with some system/process to determine what areas of Peoria are lacking bike racks.
Then I will approach businesses and governmental agencies in those areas to see if they would be interested in installing a bicycle rack for people visiting their locations. I do not expect EVERY business in Peoria to have a bicycle rack, but there should be enough of them in town that one is never far away.
How can people get involved in the site?
The easiest way to report a rack is to take a picture of the rack and send me the picture along with a general description to firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also report racks on facebook.com/wheres.the.rack.peoria or on the website at wherestherack.org. If all else fails, they are also welcome to call 309-696-2591 to report the rack location.
At some point in the future, I’d like to have an app for smartphones, where people could report racks as they see them around town and easily be able to see if the rack has already been reported.