By Liz Enbysk.

Strava is a fitness app popular with cyclists and runners who use it to track their rides with GPS. Transportation planners in Oregon are using Strava too – but in a different way.

Cycling is on the rise but the planners say they need data to see where popular routes are and problems cyclists encounter when using public streets. With that information they can write policies and plans and make more informed decisions about infrastructure investments.

So Oregon’s Department of Transportation (ODOT) purchased a one-year, $20,000 license for datasets from Strava and since then the San Francisco company launched Strava Metro to take on government customers.  The WSJ reports it has signed up London, Glasgow and Orlando, Florida among others. The company sees big potential in the transportation data it collects from the millions of bike rides and runners it tracks.

Margi Bradway of ODOT called the cycling project with Strava an experiment. But she also suggests if it proves useful it could lead to purchasing all sorts of data from the private sector because sensors in smartphones and wearable technology produce information, as WSJ puts it,urban planners only dreamed of a few years ago.

A different approach to cycling data

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority asks cyclists in the region to install its CycleTracks app and use it to record their bike rides. It’s like a travel survey that asks them why and where they are riding, but automatically maps their route rather than asking them to write it down from memory.  Data representing the purpose, route, date and time are sent to the Transportation Authority’s servers. The agency uses the information to improve SF’s bicycle infrastructure.

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Originally posted at Smart Cities Council.