How OurStreets Got to 50,000 Reports
A look at how people have embraced OurStreets — from safe streets to safe shopping
It’s official! People across the country have used OurStreets to share over 50,000 times. Whether it was reporting a car parked in the crosswalk or updating the app to show fully stocked toilet paper at the corner store, people used OurStreets to help their neighbors.
People like you have built the OurStreets app into their routine, first to address street safety issues, then to find pantry staples. You’ve gotten updates when toilet paper gets restocked at your local store, so you know when to shop. You used the OurStreets Supplies map to help family members in other states plan their shopping trips. You’ve used the OurStreets Safe Streets version to hold collective action events to see how many times cars blocked bike lanes and bus lanes. There’s so many ways our users have used OurStreets, we wanted to take this opportunity to share a little more about how we got here.
From bot to red hot
You probably met us before…as the @HowsMyDrivingDC Twitter bot. Curious street safety enthusiasts could tweet a license plate number at the bot to see how much the vehicle owed in outstanding citations. The programmer behind the bot? Our Head of Engineering and cofounder Daniel Schep!
Daniel and CEO and cofounder Mark Sussman met in the Transportation Techies group. When they started to dig into the data the bot was collecting, they knew they were onto something. In early 2019, they launched a beta web app, building on the success of the bot and feedback from early users.
From your streets to OurStreets
OurStreets was such a big hit at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting and Transportation Camp that we knew we needed to go live. OurStreets was officially launched — ahead of schedule! — in January 2020. Users made over 3500 app submissions in our first month, and things took off.
First, advocates for biking and walking and other streets safety warriors embraced the app as a streamlined way to show the hard numbers behind problems that vulnerable road users face. We partnered with local organizers in Washington, DC to hold collective action events to see how many times cars blocked bike lanes and bus lanes. But activists across the country saw OurStreets’ potential, too!
By March, we had partnered with over 30 street safety advocacy organizations, from national groups like the League of American Bicyclists to small-town groups like the Montrose Area Bicycle Alliance in Montrose, Colorado. People in communities of all sizes recognized how OurStreets gave them power to change their cities for the better.
We partnered with Helbiz and Skip on shared mobility pilots, providing the operations teams with direct access to OurStreets reports for quick and easy resolution for bikes that were broken or blocking the public right of way. The goal was to make OurStreets the universal app for reporting issues like this, making it easier to clear sidewalk clutter and ensuring that exciting micromobility operators could integrate in our communities in a positive way, while empowering everyone to take better care of our shared public spaces.
All of this success helped us gain attention from additional partners and press, with features in Fast Company, the Washington Post, and Bicycling Magazine. And this momentum gained traction, too — we were chosen as a finalist for the Civic I/O Mayors Summit at South by Southwest, and we were looking forward to presenting at National Bike Summit, too.
But by the beginning of March, we knew we needed to make other plans.
Making Shopping Safer
In March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, we went into crunch mode to repurposed the OurStreets platform to meet the needs of the moment. In the span of 11 days, we designed, prototyped, and launched OurStreets Supplies, pivoting from safe streets to safe shopping.
With COVID-19 closing businesses and shaking up supply chains, we knew OurStreets users were facing new problems — making trip after trip to the store, trying to hunt down essential items and coming up empty handed.
With Supplies, you can see recent reports of what’s in stock in stores anywhere, saving time in the store and limiting potential exposure. Don’t make fruitless trips to store after store when you’re out of toilet paper — check the latest reports in OurStreets, and pay it forward by sharing what you find while you’re there.
Changing circumstances forced us to take stock of what challenges people are facing, and how OurStreets should meet their needs. After the rapid development and launch of Supplies, we immediately began asking users how we were doing, and iterating every day. We’ve since added more than 10 new features to streamline made it easier to look up specific items instead of categories, search for specific stores, and share multiple items at once.
At OurStreets, we’re making products that make everyday life easier for everyone, so we can all work together to keep our communities safe, healthy, and thriving. We believe there’s a role for a flexible, people-first app in keeping our communities safe and healthy right now. And we want to be that service, even if it means making some big adaptations.
We’ve got more big changes coming to make shopping even easier so you can stay connected with your neighborhood businesses. Keep an eye out for an update soon!