Can we get more pedestrian/bike improvements by being http://neighbor.ly/?

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Anonymous #

This falls out of the discussion on cost effective bike improvements, which then morphed into thinking about bigger projects.

With either focus, I think there’s tremendous value in putting money where your mouth is and crowdfunding is a great way to do that. edmonds59 suggested neighbor.ly. If anyone has experience please chime in.

Of course, by itself your contribution already helps gets us closer to funding these things. But it also can help attract money from deeper pocketed people and institutions as they see the support base for these projects.

I’m going to advance the idea of a 1 for 1. That is, whatever we spend personally on our bikes or biking gear, if we can advance the same funds toward a neighbor.ly (or kickstarter, or whatever), biking/pedestrian improvement, how far can we get?

How much more giving can we inspire from civic minded institutions/wealthy folks, how much more can we get government to prioritize things?

On the one hand that’s easy for me to say because I haven’t spent much, on the other hand, the reason I haven’t spent much is because I have no money.

If you can’t do 1 for 1 (or, if you can do more!), then find your multiplier…, but then let’s try and stick with it. Frequent, broadly based donations matter every bit as a few big ones, maybe more. We’re all in this together, so who else wants to join me?


edmonds59
Participant
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It was a brief little article but I am definitely going to do some more research into this Neighbor.ly program and see what I can find out, how it’s working, etc. Will let all know what I find out.


Anonymous #

Thanks for keeping the thread alive, it felt a little lonely out there.

Clearly we need some more specifics here in terms of a plan before this means anything. The more we can get both in terms of funding platform, and in terms of project proposals, the better.

I was just advancing the idea that, regardless of the particular proposals or the funding platform, that the more we can show our numbers and commitment through crowdsourcing, the more likely we would be to get the attention of those with deeper pockets.

I know we need to get runners/joggers in on this too, but among us biking nuts, I like the idea of a multiplier on bike related spending as a proxy for spending power X level of biking obsession. 1 for 1 had a nice symmetry and ring to it. The other advantage of approaching it this way is that allows you to make the decision only once, and then the rest follows. But whatever people feel they can do, whenever they can do it, it’s all great.


pinky
Participant
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I missed the other discussion, so I’m sorry if this was already covered. Can someone explain how this funding would impact BikePgh and its own fundraising and infrastructure efforts?


edmonds59
Participant
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Will do some research and try to summarize how this might work.


cburch
Participant
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Personally I’d rather see this go toward Bike Pgh than anything else. We already have an incredibly good and effective advocacy organization. Lets take advantage of that and give them more resources to work with instead of duplicating efforts.


Anonymous #

The advantage of crowdsourcing I see is that it’s transparently focused around specific projects.

You commit money to the ones you think are most important, and if the project can’t be done, then you get your money back to do something else that’s a priority to you. You have an unmatched ability to zero in on things you care about and track progress toward them. I think that’s a big motivator… at least that’s what encouraged me to stand out on a limb.

Assuming same funding levels (which I wouldn’t, I think crowdfunding would attract more), this approach would probably concentrate focus even more on popular routes at the cost of neglecting less popular ones, which depending if you have a bang for the buck mentality, or a… we’re a community that should support each other is either a good thing or a bad thing.

And there are some clear negatives. To the extent geography and disposable income correlate, it would neglect poorer areas. To an extent that improving biking conditions in Pittsburgh is more than the sum of a set of projects you can’t capture that. And nothing I’m talking about replaces the need for organizing and advocacy. Bike Pgh is vital.

What I’d actually most like to see is Bike Pgh itself taking the lead on this in terms of picking candidate projects, in terms of pulling in folks from the city, talking to folks/institutions with money, etc. And I’m sure this does go on already, but I also think it would be beneficial if some of this were specifically organized in a crowdsourced way to have more transparency, attract more funding, and build excitement as some projects come closer into reach.

And no, I don’t think we can bankroll this ourselves, unless we do have some deep pockets on this list. But, to highlight the importance of what I’m talking about here, imagine two conversations with someone with deep pockets. In the first, we say, we have a lot of people who want A which would be good for reasons X,Y,Z. In another, we say, we have a lot of people who want A, 115 people who’ve donated at least some of their hard earned cash toward it, it’s 20% funded, but we need someone who shares our vision and commitment to X,Y,and Z to help us get there.

You can’t enter either conversation truly confident, but you have infinitely better prospects in the latter case.

Anyways, my 2c on the subject.


Jacob McCrea
Participant
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I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but a big unaddressed issue I see here is the tax treatment of any donation for infrastructure. I have no problem cutting a check to Bike PGH, among other reasons, because it is tax deductable “to the extent allowable by law,” according to language on this website. I am not a tax lawyer but I know the code and case law well enought to at least question how an individual or business could deduct such a contribution that was exclusively made 1) to and through some crowd-sourcing program which is (I assume) not a registered charity or other nonprofit, etc. 2) for funding a piece of infrastructure not used in the ordinary course of business. It seems to me that this would be a big practical impediment to donors of all types, both individual and corporate. If anyone has specific knowledge of this issue, please comment as I think it would be helpful, if only for my understanding.


Steven
Participant
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If you give to a university, say, you can specify that the donation is to be used for building the new library. Bike Pittsburgh could set up similar categories for particular projects, perhaps running a donation campaign specifically to build a certain connector.

Getting tax-exempt status is expensive and time-consuming. I think it makes more sense to do this under Bike Pittsburgh’s umbrella, if we do it at all. Let them say they got $953 in donations from 47 people specifically for fixing a certain intersection, and use that to convince the city or a foundation to pony up the remaining $149K to actually do it. :-)

But step 1 is figuring out a specific project that might benefit from this approach.


Pierce
Participant
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On a somewhat related note, and paging BikePGH, is there a unified place to figure out what the city/BikePGH are planning for ped/bike paths?

The novelty of sharrows is wearing off on me and I’d like to see some separated bike paths; are there any in the works? I’m also wondering if an over-use of sharrows will decrease their effectiveness, like speed signs or something


Mick
Participant
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While it’s true that more sharrows might lessen the impact on any set of them, I’m not sure how they could be overused.

I was on Fifth a few months ago in Uptown and an SUV rolled down his window to say, “You don’t have a registration for that do you?” It would have been nice to point to a sharrow.


jonawebb
Participant
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Besides Bike Pittsburgh, there are other organizations organized around the construction of Bike Infrastructure — the Steel Valley Trail Council is just one example. I’m sure they would welcome people getting involved and helping fund the projects. That might be a really worthwhile direction to explore — for example, identifying part of the Steel Valley Trail that needs funded, then setting up a neighbor.ly project to do that.


Anonymous #

To the point made by Jacob McCrea, I’m sure this is a question that neighbor.ly gets, so I’d ask there.

As to the larger question of whether we do this sort of thing through a crowdsource platform or through bike-pgh, it doesn’t make much difference to me personally, but speaking to what Steven and Pierce are saying, specifics are good, the more specific the better.

And again, not to say those don’t exist, but honestly I have very close to zero idea what stands at what priority with what organization.

I am happy to donate to make things better but I need to know what we might see out of it and when to get a little crazy about it (like the 1 to 1).

Even at that level, there’s no way I can contribute the kind of money that gets anything done, but I think enthusiasm shines through… and even if we can’t get a big dollar amount individually or even in total, if we can show that a lot of people want this enough to put down SOME money, that’s worth something.

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