BENNY - Bicycle Emergency Network of New York

Mick Hondlik

BENNY is an organic network for NYC cyclists that uses SMS communication during personal or community emergencies and to quickly relay information. BENNY also aims to aid NYC by providing reliable information to authorities in emergency situations.

BENNY is a prototype communication network created by designer and engineer (and cyclist) Mick Hondlik. Cyclists who register with BENNY will be able to get help when they need it, similar to the way motorists use AAA. If a cyclist gets a flat tire, for example, they can text BENNY which will relay the message to other riders registered in the area who can then reply via the network if they are able to assist. BENNY can also be utilized when there is an emergency situation, hurricane Sandy for example, in NYC. In such a situation BENNY would send SMS requests to the city-wide web of cyclists, independent sources who can quickly gather information regarding area conditions and create a reliable data set for emergency responders to consult.

Twilio Cloud Communications will be an important technology used to facilitate SMS communication. Times Up bicycle co-op in Brooklyn is a supportive cycling community that I admire and aim to give back to. Task Rabbit and AAA are both current groups whose services inspired my design. Hurricane Sandy and the work of Unicef and FEMA addressing it were the source of some of the original inspiration for investigating and prototyping BENNY.

My thesis work will be about half research and half writing and experimentation for proof of concept. I will begin by investigating community networks in New York and around the world. I will collect first hand community and network building experiences from bicycle culture leaders in the city. Additionally, some BENNY "marketing" will be done, likely with stickers and by word of mouth as is typical in bike culture. Next I will devise a method for collecting and parsing incoming text message data. The data will be organized and displayed on a BENNY website. Small scale experiments will be run to bring cyclists together for various causes in order to test the reach and effectiveness of the network. I will be consulting with related cycling projects in NYC including Cyclee and Bike Train.