When it comes to making lasting positive changes to our planet, it is all too common to feel overwhelmed about where to begin your journey, especially if you aren’t a science-inclined person like many others. This is especially daunting as a member of the younger generation. I had the pleasure of sitting over Zoom with Maggie Bachenberg, a rising senior studying Environmental Studies at Brown University, and the founder of her company Pointz, a mapping application promoting sustainable transportation. Maggie’s journey began on a cross-country biking trip over the summer when she realized how difficult it is for riders—especially new riders—to find safe and reliable routes. Inspired to make her favorite activity safer, Maggie started developing Pointz, an app that finds the safest routes for bicyclists. This initial goal for the app is only the beginning, however, as Pointz has only continued to pick up speed over the past year.

What is Pointz?

Initially powered by Maggie’s love for bikes, Pointz has expanded to create routes for all forms of micro-mobility, which basically means everything on a set of small wheels. This could include scooters, e-scooters, e-bikes, or even a unicycle. Maggie explains that as she continued to grow Pointz, she realized that the app had the potential to not only make micro-mobility safer, but also to make cities more sustainable. Maggie excitedly explains that what’s really exciting is how many benefits this single activity can generate, like a kind of positive domino effect. 

man in blue t-shirt riding on bicycle

“The nice thing about micro-mobility is that it also provides health benefits. It’s a feel-good thing to do. You’re out in the open air, you get your exercise in, and it really does reduce congestion. The more people adopt micro-mobility, the safer it will be because more infrastructure will be built to make it safer.” 

Much like Waze, Pointz uses crowd-sourcing technology in order to make the app relevant and useful in real-time for riders. 

What has been the biggest challenge in app development?

Developing an app is a difficult task on its own, but developing it for a problem that is still shifting under your feet creates a whole new level of difficulty. When I asked Maggie what her biggest challenge has been in facing her goal of changing the way we think about transportation, she doesn’t miss a beat, answering, “Infrastructure is difficult to change. The more people that adopt micro-mobility, the safer riding will be because more infrastructure will be built to make it safer. But it takes time.”

“Infrastructure is difficult to change. The more people that adopt micro-mobility, the safer riding will be because more infrastructure will be built to make it safer. But it takes time.”

yellow click pen on white printer paper

Until cities catch up, Pointz is strategically using the power of the riding community. Maggie explains that the app creates “quiet networks” made up of roads that meet the criteria for being micro-mobility safe. “We have a program that has determined certain combinations of attributes that essentially make a safe road.” 

On top of this amazing technology is a layer of crowd-sourcing data that is gathered directly from riders in the community, making it practical and user-centric. In terms of next steps, Maggie says they’re starting this process in Providence, RI. “Our strategy right now is to map out the hundred most populated cities in the country and then do some targeted advertisements for each city we’re entering. Getting some local people on board and growing it organically would be great.”

Further down the road, Maggie plans to have a feature where riders can request a particular city to be mapped out and can interact with other riders on the app. A big hope of hers would be to eventually link Pointz to the city’s maintenance service, so that when riders report potholes or other dangers, the city can act directly on behalf of the community. 

How do you measure success?

The community-oriented and environment-focused nature of Pointz as an app and business makes measuring success a bit different. Maggie explains that true success for Pointz would be creating a world in which city infrastructures change to accommodate micro-mobility, making the app no longer necessary. 

Maggie laughs, “That’s been a really interesting thing to think about. Is success actually putting yourself out of business?” 

man and woman biking along city at daytime

It’s certainly an odd position to be in, so Maggie keeps her goals bite-sized and her idea of success open. She remains focused on creating a holistic experience for app-users and taking note of how Pointz is preparing her for future endeavors in the sustainability world. Throughout our conversation, Maggie mentioned several times with a smile that she aims to continue working in sustainability, whether it’s Pointz or another exciting venture.

How do you stay confident and positive?

This was the question I couldn’t wait to ask Maggie. It’s hard not to feel like you’re staring up at Mount Everest when you think about climate change, but Maggie’s answer encourages us to look around us rather than straight up the mountain. “I think that team plays a huge role,” she says, revealing the immense frustration and defeat she had been feeling before CTO and Co-Founder Trisha Ballakur came on board. 

“She brought a lot of energy in. Everyone’s really excited about what we’re working to solve. We have our daily meeting at eight-thirty and talk every day. We know each other on a very personal level and this makes the work a lot easier to get through.” 

Maggie explains that her other team members bring their own interests to Pointz, whether it’s sustainability, bikes, or app creation. In addition to her Pointz community, Maggie also turns to the tangible results she’s been getting from riders. “It’s a fun project to work on because people are actually using it and giving us feedback.” 

person holding using iPhone X

Maggie focuses on the real-life change she is making in the riding world to keep her head high.

Any advice for your fellow Solutionists?

Maggie encourages striking a balance between following your heart and engaging with your community. After taking a moment to consider, she poses these questions: 

“What do you feel drawn to? What do you feel passionate about? It’s cliché, but it’s true.” 

When it comes to the daunting feeling of not knowing where to start, she encourages, “Go to the people who know your space really well.” 

Rather than viewing others as competition, look at them as education points. Not only does this seem like a great way to get educated, but it also seems like a great way to feel less isolated in the face of the stressful issue we’re facing. Looking to the future, Maggie isn’t sure where she’ll be next, but she plans to be in the environmental field for a long time, and a planet steward for life. And it’s all thanks to her love of bikes.