As a first-time cyclist in a new city, learning to bike with the flow of traffic can be like learning a new language. There's etiquette, for one. Hand signals. Lingo. The helmet issue. Then, putting aside the fear of getting doored, sometimes there's also just the social anxiety of being a n00b in a world of die-hard bike geeks.
Last fall, Dawson launched Get Biked as an email listserv where individual cyclists in New York City could put their bikes up for sale. He had three main goals: First, to create a "passive buying" experience issued as a weekly list of bikes. Secondly, he wanted to make uninitiated cyclists more comfortable with buying a frame on budget. Lastly, Dawson wanted Get Biked to serve as an educational platform—a place to share tips and experiences.
Unlike Craigslist, Dawson's list mandates that sellers include a minimum amount of basic information about the bike, including why they're selling it and a picture. And where used bike shops sometimes offer up a limited selection, Get Biked offers up a larger network of possibilities. Dawson stresses that the quality of the list depends on the quality of the information, not necessarily the quality of the bikes themselves.
Last week, Get Biked expanded its web presence, and now counts more than 1,000 users subscribed. Every Tuesday, Dawson, a freelance graphic designer by day, sends out the bikes for sale, and usually reels in a handful of interested buyers. He hasn't figured out a way to make money himself yet, but has been talking to bike shop owners about how they might tap into and learn from this community.
"I've printed out a bunch of postcards, and I'm getting all Babysitter's Club with this all over the city," Dawson says. "I was a little nervous at first, because I didn't want to be stepping on anybody's toes."
Dawson doesn't yet know how used bike shops will respond to Get Biked, and is reasonably concerned that his expanding peer-to-peer list might steal some of their customers. Still, used bike shops often offer up a wealth of know-how that can't yet be accessed online.
Get Biked, however, has also just released a questionnaire to collect data from users on their experiences biking in the city.
"It's kind of like your neighborhood, and I'm your neighbor helping you find these bikes," Dawson says. "I'm kind of making it up as I go along."
[Image: Bicycles via Shutterstock]