Bicyclists and bike planners are pioneers in using crowdsourcing to help improve biking in their communities. For example, they were among the first to use GPS tracking apps to embrace the use of GPS tracking to help obtain data on where and when people travel by bike. This tracking data can be used to better understand actual behaviour of bicyclists (which routes they choose) and can highlight where improvements are needed. This page presents examples of how crowdsourcing is being used in bicycling.
Crowdsourced Cycling: Map-based Reporting
Applications that allow people to map where they ride and report problems. Examples:
Ride Report is an application that tracks bike trips and then allows users to describe the quality of their trips. The data is provided to cities anonymously for use in helping plan bike facilities and transport planning. The map at the bottom on the right shows “stress levels” for streets in downtown Portland. More from Streetsblog California: Crowdsource Bicycling App ‘Ride Report’ Goes National Today (2016).
The San Francisco County Transportation Authority developed the CycleTracks application in 2010 to better understand the needs of bicyclists. The application monitors cyclist paths to collect data about actual route choice. CycleTracks has also been used in several other cities to collect similar information. (The link includes information on how to use the application.)
Many commercial fitness apps sell or give tracking data to public agencies for use in helping plan better biking and walking facilities. Read more: GPS Tracking Applications.
Pinging Bicycle Data
These applications allow you to send data directly to a map that keeps track of where bicyclists experience problems. Many work directly from your bell – in other words, you ring your bell and a message is sent that there is a problem in this location. They use GPS tracking and bluetooth.
Ping – if you care
PING if you care! lets cyclists communicate directly with the city of Brussels to make cycling more comfortable and safer. Users track their rides and push the PING button whenever they find a flaw in cycling infrastructure, unclear signage, conflicts with other road users or even the fear of dooring. The application was developed by Bike Citizens of Graz, Austria.
The Blubel bike bell provides navigation information via LEDs on the top of the bell and learns from the cycling community to find the safest routes by gathering data from every time the Blubel is rung, These location points and other journey data are gathered and analysed to calculate safest routes.
Connected Cycle Pedal
The Connected Cycle pedal is a connected pedal that automatically records the speed, route, incline, and calories burnt of every bike trip. These statistics are sent to the cloud, and made available to users through the Connected Cycle application available on smartphones.
Crowdsourced Bicycling: Collaboration
Collaboration consists of working together to develop a plan or take action. We describe three types of crowdsourced collaboration: engagement, education and process. Here are examples of applications used for crowdsourced collaboration in bicycling.
Ringstrasse 150 is one of our projects. It’s a collaboration application designed to generate ideas and increase support for better bike facilities on Vienna’s Ringstrasse. It consists of the RingRide mobile phone game designed to engage and educate people, and the Ringstrasse150.com website for getting involved in improving the Ringstrasse’s bicycle and pedestrian facilities. More about Ringstrasse150 from Our Projects.
MetroQuest is public participation software that provides a wide variety of components including engagement, education and process elements that can be mixed and matched for specific projects. In this case MetroQuest was used to help develop Ottawa’s pedestrian and bicycle plans. The application was provided online in both French and English to gather people’s comments on pedestrian & cycling behavior, origins, destinations and routing, levels of comfort, and recommended improvements.
Crowdsourced Bicycling: ACT!
Acting means actually doing something besides developing plans. We describe five types of crowdsourced action: DYI Urbanism, Crowdfunding, Peer-to-peer Transport Service, Advice, and Advocacy. Here are examples of applications used for crowdsourced action in bicycling.
Residents in many cities are taking direct action to improve bike and pedestrian safety using plungers or even leaves and chalk. Here’s an article by Michael Andersen for Streets Blog on how some of these guerrilla bike lanes have been made permanent (June 2017). These groups include:
- San Francisco Transformation (SFMTrA Twitter feed), (citylab article 21-sept-16),
- Portland’s PDX Transformation (article: Demanding More from the City).
- New York New York’s Transformation Department and their DYI bike lanes.
Crowdfunded DYI Improvements
Jonathan is an architect and bike rider working to increase safety of pedestrians and cyclists. He has a crowdfunding project called Flowers & Such: Boston Bike Lanes on GoFundMe. So far he’s raised about $7,000 for flowers and cones to create interventions on the Mass Ave corridor, the most dangerous stretch of road in Boston.
Denver Bike Lane Project: Denver’s 15th Street Bikeway was partly funded via a crowdfunding campaign.
Denver Bike Lane Crowdsourcing Project – Next City
Six tips from the Denver bike lane crowdsourcing campaign – Streetsblog
References: Crowdsourced Bicycling
- The hidden bias of big data by Joe Cortright of City Observatory (May 2017) on the need for more cycling data – especially on aspects such as ‘near misses’.
- Anonymous San Franciscans Are Making Renegade Bike Lanes; John Metcalfe; Sep 21, 2016.
- More Accurate Bicycle Counter Could Give Complete Streets Advocates a Boost; by Joel Cohen, in Next City, June 6, 2016.
- City planners tap into wealth of cycling data from Strava tracking app; Peter Walker in The Guardian Bike Blog, 9 May 2016.
- Crowdsourcing Pedestrian and Cyclist Activity Data: US Federal Highway Administration, January 2015; Author: Amy Smith, Pedestrian & Bicycle Information Center (www.pedbikeinfo.org).
- Where do cyclists ride? A route choice model developed with revealed preference GPS data (paywall) – article by Joseph Broacha, Jennifer Dill and John Gliebeb in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice (December 2012).
- Article by: Eric Jaffe in Atlantic Cities reporting on the research results: What’s the Best Way to Figure Out What Bike Riders Really Want?; The Atlantic Cities, October 24, 2012.
Blog Posts: Crowdsourced Bicycling
Three interesting articles about Crowdsourcing that appeared in late 2019:2020 and beyond: 11 predictions at the intersection of technology and citizen engagement in the DemocracySpot blog by Tiago Peixoto and Tom Steinberg. Lots of food for thought.Why Crowdsourcing Often Leads to Bad Ideas by Oguz A. Acar in the Harvard Business Review, outlining some of […]
Alan Bell has used machine learning to develop a program that analyses data from traffic cameras to identify blocked bus and bike lanes. He analysed a section of St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan and found that the bike lane was blocked 55% of the time and the bus stop was blocked 57% of the time […]
The Transit Alliance Miami has created a simple graphic display illustrating the time between Miami Metrorail trains (frequency) at the Government Center station. They have taken Metrorail data and displayed it in an easy to understand format. It is an excellent example of how city residents can use open data to analyse and publicise the […]
Over the holidays I had a chance to update crowdsourced-transport.com with new information. Here are the highlights: Crowdsourced Public Transport page – added: WikiRoutes – site where users can add information about public transport routes and suggest improvements (PT Mapping). Digital Matatus – an application for using smartphones to map public transport routes (PT Mapping). […]