After receiving a mess of street sweeping tickets — at $49 a pop — Berkeley resident Michael Kurrels had had enough. To solve his dilemma, Kurrels developed “Don’t Fear the Sweeper,” an app that sends texts reminding residents to move their cars before street sweeping.
Kurrels and his wife Marine Guillanton, who have their own development company, conceptualized the project years ago but only recently gained the skills to realize it, according to Kurrels.
The app currently functions independently from the city of Berkeley, but Kurrels hopes to increase its reach by partnering with the city. The city’s transportation division could not reached for comment.
In 2011, former councilmembers Jesse Arreguín and Gordon Wozniak called for a similar street sweeping app because of complaints from residents who were repeatedly ticketed. Wozniak said he hopes the city will work to promote Kurrels’ app as a “nice gesture” to the community.
“There are other cities that sponsor this kind of app,” Kurrels said, citing Denver, Colorado as an example.
“Don’t fear the Sweeper” texts users at 7 p.m. the night before their street is swept, reminding them to move their cars. Berkeley streets are swept once a month at various times and dates depending on the street, as well as the side of the street where the car is parked.
Because the two sides of Kurrels’ street get swept on different days, the couple included a feature that allows users to choose to receive texts on multiple days of the month. According Kurrels, other similar apps work solely off users’ addresses, so they can be faulty when users park across the street from their homes.
Each text costs Kurrels and Guillanton approximately 1 cent, so they’ve set up a PayPal at the bottom of the website where users can donate. Approximately 100 people were using the app as of last week, but this number has since doubled because of an article that appeared in Berkeleyside on Monday. Kurrels said PayPal donations have since allowed him and his wife to break even.
Kurrels has reached out to the city of Berkeley in the hopes that they will promote the service by providing a link to the app on the bottom of tickets, so residents can avoid future fines.
Wozniak said he believes this decision would not have a large impact upon the city of Berkeley’s finances. According to Wozniak, preventing pollution from entering the bay through storm drains takes precedence over generating small revenues at a cost to residents.
“Tickets are not a good way to make people feel warm and fuzzy about the city, and in the end, we want people to feel that the city is trying to work with them in every way,” Wozniak said.