Seth Herr '10 is fighting back against bike theft. His weapon is The Bike Index, the open-source bike registry he developed.
"I love biking and I also think it has an enormous part in creating a sustainable culture," Herr says. "Theft robs people of the opportunity to bike and makes them unwilling to invest in an efficient, well-maintained bike that makes biking enjoyable.”
Herr designed The Bike Index to make it easier to register a bike, and harder for someone else to steal and re-sell it. The service is now expanding across the U.S., funded by more than $50,000 from a successful Kickstarter campaign.
So how did this Spanish major end up tackling a transportation problem with a technological solution? Earlhamites have been involved in key steps along Herr's journey.
Herr raced bikes in high school, and his passion deepened after an extra-curricular course he took at Earlham's Bike Co-operative, led by Chris Craig '99, manager of the local bike shop. Herr worked as a bike mechanic for the rest of his college career, and took that skill set with him to Chicago after graduation.
When Herr thought of opening his own bike shop, after years as a mechanic, Noah Bernsohn '07 helped him learn to program. As it turns out, coding is one of the few things Herr likes as much as bikes. He took an apprenticeship as a developer, and then a full-time job in the field.
That's where his language skills re-enter the picture.
"The biggest part of being a modern programmer or developer is communication," he says. "If you're writing the best code in the world but you can't explain what you're doing and why, you're not very useful to a team."
Herr found that he could explain the reasons for building a better bike registry, collaborate to build it, and recruit users from Denver to Denmark. He and another full-time employee are now bringing the service to bike shops in the U.S., where new bike owners can register their rides before they even leave the store.
Herr gives his education credit for helping him dare to tackle this problem.
"I think my decision to go to Earlham was based on a desire to do something more than just be successful in my life, but to give back in some way," he says. "Earlham helped instill in me a desire to not only do something that is interesting but to take a swing at saving the world."