Pittsburgh company can pinpoint just how close that car got to your bike

TransitSource tested its Sentinel Box in the East End.

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Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
Sarah Anne Hughes

If you ride a bike in an urban environment, you probably have an anecdote or two (or 50) about being passed too closely by a driver.

This past fall, a Pittsburgh-based tech company that aims to “elevate the way people talk about and advocate for people-powered transportation” engaged four cyclists in an experiment to quantify just how often that happens on a stretch of road in the East End.

The pilot utilized TransitSource’s Sentinel Box, which “interfaces with the cyclist’s smartphone to record GPS location, time of day, passing distance, moving speed of the passing vehicle and a picture of the event.” The test, conducted as part of the city’s PGH Lab, allowed TransitSource to “see what our product was made of,” co-founder and managing director Allison Plummer told The Incline.

A 1.6-mile stretch of North and South Negley Avenue, from Fifth to Stanton avenues, was a good candidate for the study corridor for a few reasons, Plummer said. The avenue is currently listed by Bike Pittsburgh as a “cautionary route,” meaning it can be “more stressful” to ride than others and hard to avoid.

It’s also slated to get bike lanes. By collecting data before and after the lanes are installed, the city will have actual data to measure a difference in safety, Plummer said.

The Sentinel Box provides an “opportunity to make a change before damage is done,” Plummer said, and to “step away from reactionary” decision making.