Monday, May 9, 2016

Strava Biking and Walking Data for Planning?

There's been a few articles in the last few days about cities and planners using Strava data to help figure out what routes are popular among runners and cyclists.  I was worried about this approach given the types of people who are able to use apps versus others.  They tried to assuage our worries...
There were two obvious limitations to the idea of Strava Metro. The userbase is a small sample of all cyclists, and the app’s emphasis on competition tends to make them more likely to be Lycra-clad enthusiasts rather than everyday commuters and meanderers.

The company initially had the same worry. However, when authorities started buying the data and comparing it against their own information, they found Strava tended to capture a solid 5-10% of all bike movements. Moreover, they discovered that, especially in cities, those with the app tended to ride the same routes as everyone else.
I still worry that 5-10% number because there are a lot of routes in low income areas that might not get marked up. I actually chatted with Christy Kwan of the Alliance for Biking and Walking about this in a recent podcast.  If you check that out, we start talking about data overall at 19:45.  But  I cut out the 2 minutes of audio specifically talking about new measurement below in which she talked more about ways to measure walking and biking using technology.

I think what she says about the equity issue is important.  But it also brings to mind the discussion about the push and pull of privacy and creating good data that can be used for planning purposes.  You might not want companies to follow you around, but you do want better infrastructure spending.  It's a question I'm sure that will be discussed for years to come. 

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