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Leader of the Bike Lane Uprising

Christina Whitehouse leaned on her MDP2 education to create the app that allows cyclists to report bike-lane hazards and has prompted city action to promote a safer environment for bikers.

Christina Whitehouse

Christina Whitehouse (MPD2 ‘17) recently earned the twin titles of Chicagoan of the Year and one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in American Cycling for turning a side project into an international push for bicyclist safety.

Whitehouse is the founder of Bike Lane Uprising, an app that allows cyclists to report hazards in and around bicycle lanes. This includes vehicle drivers who are disrespecting their pedal-powered friends. 

Whitehouse credits the education she received through Northwestern Engineering's Master of Product Design and Development Management (MPD2) program for the app’s success.

“The foundation of why it's become so well-known is user-centered design and development and really being scrappy and strategic with how to actually make stuff,” Whitehouse said. “The MPD2 program allowed me to learn a lot of things to hack the product development cycle and be able to develop products and services for end users that I'm proud of.”

She almost wasn’t around to finish her MPD2 education and spearhead the Bike Lane Uprising movement.

In 2017, Whitehouse was pedaling her way through downtown Chicago when she was almost hit by the driver of a commercial truck. That near-miss left her just outside the growing number of bicyclists injured on America’s roadways.

According to the National Safety Council, the number of preventable deaths from bicycle transportation is up 37 percent over the past decade. Of the 1,230 bicyclist deaths in 2021 – the latest year for which the council reported data – at least 853 were involved in motor-vehicle incidents.

Whitehouse, who also runs her own product development consulting business, created Bike Lane Uprising to chronicle incidents like the one she almost experienced. The app serves as a database documenting bike-lane issues – everything from faded safety paint and plowed snow to aggressive drivers.

Cyclists submit their observations that are then mapped for all to see. Whitehouse has used those user-submitted reports to work with city officials to help make bike lanes safer.

“The goal is to identify ways to prevent tragedies from happening in the future,” she said. “With the trajectory of increasing bicyclist deaths and injuries, it's going to take a lot of effort and bold infrastructure initiatives to flatten this curve.”

Whitehouse’s mission is to change that trajectory and lean on human-centered design to develop better bike lanes. She has worked with state representatives and city leaders in Chicago to push for the use of cameras to enforce bike-lane laws. She also allows app data on repeat offenders to be used in court cases that seek to legally encourage them to be better roadmates.

Whitehouse said she is proud of the effort she launched in Chicago and how it has taken off nationally and internationally. The app’s database now boasts more than 65,000 reports of bike-lane obstructions.

That scale helps capture city leaders’ attention, she said. 

“If a ticket had been issued for each one of those, it could range from $150 to thousands of dollars per obstruction,” she said. “So if you think about 65,000 bike-lane obstruction times $150, that's a lot of unrealized revenue for cities to actually build bike lanes that are safe.” 

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