Crowd-sourcing the world’s best bike routes

By on 13 August, 2013

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We can’t all do “a Boris Johnson” and create a network of cycling super highways like the colourful Mayor of London is doing.

But with the Australian Government’s Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport: supporting active travel in Australian communities report revealing approximately 900,000 Australians ride a bicycle for transport purposes at least once a week, there’s an increasing need for the best and safest cycle routes to be mapped out. And who better to identify those routes than the lycra-clad MAMIL gangs, time-poor couriers, and lazy Sunday cyclists who ride them?

AECOM’s Brisbane-based Transport Planner, Rachel Smith, in collaboration with the urban design think tank BMW Guggenheim Lab, has launched a participatory spatial survey to crowd-source and crowd-solve the best bicycle routes in every city across the globe using an interactive user experience map.

Whereas traditional mapping shows current conditions and the type of bicycle infrastructure located on given roads, the Dynamic Connections Map allows riders with varying capability (confident, regular, or potential) to rate streets where they live and work on their bicycle friendliness.

Since its launch in Berlin as one of the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s ‘out in the city’ projects, the map has empowered Berliners to consider how cycle-friendly streets and intersections are for bicycle riders of all experience levels and abilities – and, now it’s Australia’s turn.

Unsafe streets are identified by filtering the data in relation to factors such as safety, typical rider skill level, frequency of road use and purpose of travel, promising wide-ranging discussion and debate on routes currently favoured by serious cyclists and casual enthusiasts alike.

Ms Smith said crowd-sourced data collection like that used in the Dynamic Connections Map will lead to outcomes that are instigated by the people, for the people.

Further, with the Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport report showing some three and a half million people – nearly one in six Australians – ride a bicycle at least once a week, and more than 8 million Australians ride at least once a year (delivering economic benefits of around $1.43 per kilometre), the case for a better planned and more accessible bicycle network is clear.

“We need to get a grasp of community interest and to get a deeper insight into why people walk, ride a bike, catch the bus or drive a car,” said Ms Smith.

“Coupling crowd-sourcing and crowd-solving, along with open and big data, can enable planning teams and government authorities to make the informed decisions based on current trends and real opinions rather than on historic data and assumed beliefs.”

Got a favourite cycle route, or want to check out the Dynamic Connections Map? Start with your local street today. Access instructions on how to use the map here.

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