They've come a long way since then, collecting ride data from 40,000 rides taken in the bike-happy city of Portland, Oregon.
They used the data, according to founder William Henderson, to help the City of Portland see where possible improvements to the bike infrastructure could be made to increase riders' safety. Henderson said amassing data on users' experience when cycling allows for the type of 'emotional hard data' that can counteract planning engineers' instinct to increase 'throughput' of traffic flows.
"[Ride Report] is a way to get a deeper understanding of real-time data and how people actually use the streets, to optimize safety and throughput," Henderson said.
When users download the free Ride Report software, which is now available to riders in any city*, the app unobtrusively asks a rider for quick feedback on the lock screen of the iPhone (and soon, the Android). If they want to, riders can report further on the route they just took, and the software gives some icon trophies for ride milestones.
What's very nifty is that the app collects this data and over time creates a Stress Map (below) that users can look at to find cyclists most-recommended streets and routes.
The next step for Ride Report, Henderson said, is to provide turn-by-turn directions similar to Google Maps, but with the emphasis on crowd-sourced personal recommendation routes.
The app automatically logs every trip a rider takes (it works by using the phone's accelerometer, gyroscope, and an algorithm to sense that a user is biking) and thus gathers a lot of short-trip data that was previously very difficult to collect and study.
"The other thing I think is important is that we are collecting data on how people feel - at the end of the tip the app reports right to the user's lock screen where they can recommend the route or report an issue with a single tap. This crowd-sourced data is a really valuable resource to cycling," Henderson said.
Meanwhile, Ride Report is partnering with a few other cities (to be announced this spring) to use the data analytics software to model and understand bicycle transportation behavior.
*the Stress Map needs rider input before it can be populated with routes - Henderson said in cities where a critical mass of riders use the app this could happen in just a few weeks time.