The Yahoo! Purple Pedals Project is an experiment in mobile and Web 2.0 technology. Twenty cruiser bikes have been rigged with hacked Nokia N95 mobile phones, a battery pack, and a solar charger. The camera takes a picture approximately every 45 seconds, tags it with a GPS marker, and then uploads it to Flickr. People around the world can follow along on a map to see where the bikes are, and to see the pictures they've taken.
The extended battery pack and solar charge help the bike operate almost totally without intervention (though the batteries can be charged through a wall outlet, as a backup).
David Munir Nabti, CEO (Chief Entrepreneur and Organizer) of RootSpace, first encountered the bikes and the people involved at a Yahoo Hack Day event in Silicon Valley in early September. They met again in New York City a few weeks later, and decided to send a bike with Nabti to Lebanon.
The Purple Pedals Project excited Nabti for two reasons. "First, I wanted to bring this kind of simple yet creative and powerful innovation to Lebanon, to encourage this kind of innovation and problem-solving, and to see how this kind of innovation could be adapted to serve civil society and social change.
"Second, I thought this would be an exciting way to show people outside Lebanon a different view of this country. Many people abroad still have visions of war and destruction when they think of Beirut and Lebanon. Those who have visited or seen the place know the reality is very different, and brag about the beauty of the sea, the city, and the mountains."
The bike in Beirut, named "Billyburg" (a nickname for a trendy part of New York City), is now at RootSpace, but the idea is to soon send it out with people and groups to explore other parts of the city and the country. Nabti explained that he hopes bike touring and eco-tourism groups will take the bike with them on tours and treks, to show people the natural beauty in the different parts of Lebanon.
Nabti also said that RootSpace will plan a variety of innovation/entrepreneurship events around the bike, as well, to promote innovation and design in Lebanon. "We hope this bike serves as a spark for some people in Lebanon to brainstorm and design some great and innovative things."
Future plans include ideas to send Billyburg to other countries in the Middle East and Arab World, and beyond.
If you have ideas or questions regarding the bike, please contact us.