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Company behind apps that track running & riding targets local authorities & advocacy groups with Strava Metro

Strava has moved into the 'big data' game with the launch of Strava Metro, which it says gives data providing “ground truth” on where people ride bikes or go running – and it is licensing the results to city authorities and advocacy groups, including in London and Glasgow.

The San Francisco, California-based company, developer of the smartphones apps and website that allow users worldwide to track their rides and runs, says that “millions of GPS-tracked activities are uploaded to Strava every week from around the globe.

“In denser metro areas, nearly one-half of these are commutes. These activities create billions of data points that, when aggregated, enable deep analysis and understanding of real-world cycling and pedestrian route preferences.”

The popularity of using Strava on main commuter routes can clearly be seen on the map of London accompanying this article – you can find a bigger version here on the Bicycleretailer.com website – with strong levels of usage on roads such as the Embankment.

Making the data available to local transportation authorities or advocacy groups can help identify where demand for cycling, for example – and thereby the need for safe infrastructure – is strongest.

According to the company, “Strava Metro’s mission is to produce state-of-the-art spatial data products and services to make cycling, running and walking in cities better.

“Using Strava Metro, departments of transportation and city planners, as well as advocacy groups and corporations, can make informed and effective decisions when planning, maintaining, and upgrading cycling and pedestrian corridors.”

Clearly, there are bound to be privacy concerns with such a service – we’ve reported in the past, for example, concerns that thieves use rides uploaded to Strava to target where people who own high-end bikes live.

Strava has sought to allay such worries by emphasising that Strava Metro “processes the data to remove all personal information linked to the user and structures it for compatibility with classic geographical information systems (GIS) environments.”

It adds: “Strava Metro tools enable DOTs and advocacy groups to do detailed analyses and glean insights into cycling and running patterns dissected by time of day, day of week, season and local geography.

“Advocacy organisations and the general public can now access high-resolution heatmap visualisations of the data free of charge at Strava Labs.”

You can find those heatmaps here.

“Organisations seeking deeper insight and analysis can license Strava Metro data and tools for use with geographic information systems (GIS) mapping software. Licensing costs are based on the number of Strava members in the requested geographic area.”

There is an inquiry form for anyone wanting to find out more information.

The company’s co-founder and president Michael Horvath said: "Bicycling safety is a top concern to our members worldwide, especially when they're riding through metropolitan areas with a high concentration of motor vehicle traffic.

"Strava Metro delivers an innovative way for us to serve Strava members and non-members alike by helping to make their daily commutes and weekend rides smoother and safer," he added.

Pricing of the licensing of the data will depend on the number of Strava users in the area concerned.

According to a blog post by Reed Albergotti in The Wall Street Journal, the first local authority to sign up is the department of transportation for Oregon, which will pay $20,000 to license it for 12 months to analyse usage in Portland.

A policy analyst working for that body, Margi Bradway, said: “We’re dipping our toe into the idea of big data with this project.”

Jennifer Dill, who is a professor at Portland State University’s Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, said: “Right now, there’s no data. We don’t know where people ride bikes. Just knowing where the cyclists are is a start.”

Other customers are located in London, Glasgow, Orlando in Florida, and Alpine Shire in Victoria, Australia, although the actual bodies to have licensed the data have not been reported.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

46 comments

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ribena [179 posts] 2 years ago
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i fear that councils don't really have the expertise to deal with this data (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2012/may/25/cycling-gov...), do they provide any assistance with that?

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Al__S [1024 posts] 2 years ago
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Daft idea. Data set isn't "where cyclists go", it's "where Strava users go". For instance, around Cambridge, the local TT courses are very obvious on the heat map, but often on roads that no sensible riders use... the data fails to show some of the busiest routes to and from schools for example.

I realise that TTs will kindof of be taken care of because the data sets they're selling have time information, so they can get maps of peak hours, but still massively distorted in favour of lycra wearing long distance commuters (like myself).

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mrmo [2074 posts] 2 years ago
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I think it is a no brainer why this information could be useful, my only caveat, how representative of ALL cyclists is Strava?

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joemmo [1164 posts] 2 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

I think it is a no brainer why this information could be useful, my only caveat, how representative of ALL cyclists is Strava?

Probably better than nothing but unlikely to capture the non competitive and utility riders who will benefit most from better infrastructure.

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mrmo [2074 posts] 2 years ago
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joemmo wrote:

Probably better than nothing but unlikely to capture the non competitive and utility riders who will benefit most from better infrastructure.

Thinking about this a bit more, Strava using commuters are probably commuting further and faster but also using the more direct routes, maybe the knowledge that cyclists want the direct route between a and b and don't want to use the back roads might actually be a good thing? I know many utility cyclists use the back roads, but is this because they want to or because they would rather not mix with the traffic on busy roads?

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Initialised [307 posts] 2 years ago
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So, if you want the routes you cycle to get council or government funding for improvements you'd better join Strava and get logging that data!

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Quince [382 posts] 2 years ago
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As someone has said, there's quite a big difference between the average Strava user and the average London (or anywhere else) commuter. It's not as if commuters just continuously get lost in Regent's Park, inadvertently circling it several times before managing to find their way out.

Also, this bit makes me scared... "as well as advocacy groups and corporations"... I don't know WHY it makes me scared. I can't imagine what big corporations could really DO with lots of cycle data. But mixing big corporations with big data has a rather ominous ring to it.

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mesagsx [1 post] 2 years ago
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Before everyone gets too animated about whether a Strava user is a "real" cyclist ... It's pretty straight-forward for Strava to analyze the data and separate the commuters out from the roadies & others, based on their speed, pattern of acceleration and time of day.

What you're seeing here is the untreated version of that data - if you want the breakdown and more detailed analysis, I'm sure it's available from Strava for a price  1

Analyzing vast swathes of data is never perfect, but this is a pretty snazzy source of data IMHO, and a really important step towards understanding where we all ride and what might make it easier.

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abudhabiChris [692 posts] 2 years ago
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mesagsx wrote:

Before everyone gets too animated about whether a Strava user is a "real" cyclist ... It's pretty straight-forward for Strava to analyze the data and separate the commuters out from the roadies & others, based on their speed, pattern of acceleration and time of day.

What you're seeing here is the untreated version of that data - if you want the breakdown and more detailed analysis, I'm sure it's available from Strava for a price  1

Analyzing vast swathes of data is never perfect, but this is a pretty snazzy source of data IMHO, and a really important step towards understanding where we all ride and what might make it easier.

Yes and no. It is possible but not straightforward without making a lot of assumptions. The analysis of such data is not easy even for some of the most sophisticated analytical organisations, let alone the average municipal authority traffic department.

This is the problem with big data of all descriptions - it rarely works on its own. The danger is that people start to rely on it in preference to more detailed and more expensive data of the type which is gained from periodic cycle and other traffic surveys. Big data makes very little sense without small data to benchmark against.

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Trull [81 posts] 2 years ago
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I think this is a great idea for local communities to benefit from actual usage patterns. Don't forget that the traditional method involves a loop of rubber hose stretched over the road and a datalogger.

There is always bias in any measurement, but there are so many ordinary cyclists using strava anyway and is this not a huge step forward?

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giobox [356 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

The San Francisco, California-based company, developer of the smartphones apps..

Thanks for clarifying that road.cc...  39

Great opportunity for the Strava team though. I'm always a little concerned for Strava's future, as I can't imagine their ratio of paying subscribers to free users can be all that high, at least not if my own Strava followers list is anything to go by. Its not like Garmin Connect where they have the luxury of high margin hardware to bring in the profits. Glad to see them identifying other ways to raise revenue.

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IanW1968 [271 posts] 2 years ago
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From the moment Strava became so popular the data became their biggest asset. If the councils have people capable of big data analysis it will be useful, retailers and advertisers can, so expect to see some billboards for latest gadget at a strava section near you.

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tomturcan [66 posts] 2 years ago
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Good move Strava, great little company.

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nowasps [426 posts] 2 years ago
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I only record my longer "lycra" rides on Strava. All my commuting, shopping and city riding is done without.

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RobD [292 posts] 2 years ago
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It's a pretty clever move by them, whether or not the data gets used well by councils etc remains to be seen, but providing it is an extra revenue source that I can see anywhere that talks about improving cycling will be almost 'required' to invest in in order to show that they are investigating cycling usage. I'm sure in a short space of time there will be more 'ordinary' cyclists using strava as it gets promoted by groups who have made the investment in the data.

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Al__S [1024 posts] 2 years ago
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mesagsx wrote:

Before everyone gets too animated about whether a Strava user is a "real" cyclist ... It's pretty straight-forward for Strava to analyze the data and separate the commuters out from the roadies & others, based on their speed, pattern of acceleration and time of day..

Only sort of- and that's what the paid-for version of the data gets you.
But
Huge "but"
It still only covers Strava users. Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, MAMILS in the main. Even they generally won't use Strava to record every errand to the shops etc. I've already spoken to the head Cycling officer at Cambridgeshire County Council. He'd already come to the conclusion that for him, the data is more or less worthless due to it being an especially small subset of cyclists and a subset of their journies.

In fact, the more cycling there is somewhere, the less useful the data is, as the smaller the % of riders that are Strava users (even as that % probably represents a larger % of the total population).

Having said all that, I've taken (though most of it is being filed as private so as not to annoy friends following me) to recording every little shopping trip. I'm interested in quite how far I really do cycle.

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MisterT [4 posts] 2 years ago
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Strava is the devils own... Turning the wonderful act of riding alone or with mates into mindless willy waving.

If any policy or data is used from that source, then it's study and use is to highlight the preferences and activities of mindless willy wavers in society.

(God I'm getting old and grumpy)

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Beefy [376 posts] 2 years ago
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First let me say I log everything on Strava which I think is a bit sad, hay ho so is wearing tights in you mid forties  17 ... Joking aside, sharing of people's personal data with corporate anyone, always makes me worry. Put in the hands of say the Daily Nail ha ha and I'm sure the information could be used against riders, also will it mean the less used routes (by strava riders) will be neglected. Perhaps it would be better to make non car infrastructure a priority. I know I'm dreaming about that. I honestly don't see most authorities using the data for good.... I only seem to hear how evil cyclists are these days. It's not convenient to admit we take cars off the road, safety for pedestrians and the environment. This will be ignored to point out riders going on pavement or the wrong way on one way ect.

Bloody cyclists!!!  19

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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Local authorities should be providing cycling facilities useable by those covered by the snappy phrase "from Eight to Eighty".

Do eight year old kids use Strava en masse?

Do eighty year olds use Strava en masse?

Can we trust local authorities to use this information from Strava to cater for those groups?

Local authorities will use this information to make lazy decisions and back them up when they install piss poor facilities.

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dafyddp [361 posts] 2 years ago
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Fascinating stuff. Given that the data will include time as well as location, I don't think it matters that the majority of the data might be distorted in favour of segment-chasers - by extracting the information of the slowest 10% at prime commuting times, I'd imagine authorities will achieve a fairly accurate snapshot.

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stenmeister [273 posts] 2 years ago
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I live 20 mile outside of Glasgow although there are many roads that are favoured by cyclists, some of the best roads are less popular.

I'm also not fond of The National Cycle Path with it's tree roots poking through the concrete, excess gravel, the sewage plant and the remnants of the Buckfast fuelled nights left nearby.

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Jimmy Ray Will [470 posts] 2 years ago
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I've just wasted five minutes looking at that heat map again. Interesting to see where people are going and what sort of level of cycling warrants what depth of heat... looking at my folks house, I know I will be the only person using their driveway, and despite two years of strava fun, it barely resonates on the map.

Quite fun to look at though.

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Scoob_84 [381 posts] 2 years ago
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My various commuting routes all look popular on the map which seems about right to me.

Interesting that Herne hill velodrome and the crystal palace crits are shown, I guess these activities occur around commuting time.

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rdanderson [5 posts] 2 years ago
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Excellent another 'big data' story. I look forward to someone trying to sell me totally irrelevant products whilst I am cycling along trying to concentrate on the roads. Maybe the ambulance chasers will be the first ones to take up the new advertising opportunity...

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ChairRDRF [308 posts] 2 years ago
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nowasps wrote:

I only record my longer "lycra" rides on Strava. All my commuting, shopping and city riding is done without.

Exactly. Counting up where the vast majority of people using bicycles - and they do NOT have Strava - means spending the money on doing proper cycle traffic counts.

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Paul M [360 posts] 2 years ago
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joemmo wrote:
mrmo wrote:

I think it is a no brainer why this information could be useful, my only caveat, how representative of ALL cyclists is Strava?

Probably better than nothing but unlikely to capture the non competitive and utility riders who will benefit most from better infrastructure.

Actually, quite a lot worse than nothing - it would give an entirely false and misleading impression of cycling as a whole to use data from a small coterie of speed demon vehicular cyclists, and decisions made on such data would almost certainly be bad decisions. I do hope it is not true that any London local authority has bought this crap.

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Paul M [360 posts] 2 years ago
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Garbage in, garbage out. You only have to look at Strava's "heat map" across northern Europe to see what garbage it produces. It suggests that the UK is a more active cycling nation than the Netherlands which is palpable nonsense. I even suggests that there is more cycling in the UK - by a wide margin - than in France, and even at the level of weekend sports riding that is a nonsense as anyone who has driven a French road can attest.

Lord help us if this rubbish gets used to inform local authority investment decisions.

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Scoob_84 [381 posts] 2 years ago
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So are people saying that commuters who strava to work pick different routes through London than commuters who dont?

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schocca [4 posts] 2 years ago
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Well, this is just fantastic for quite a few reasons:
1) I commute a lot from London City to Essex. This was a great way to find out if there are other "secret" routes I have not considered.
2) It quickly points out that the main roads in outer London are heavily used by bikes and the back roads are not. I.e. where to focus the investment. I'm talking about examples like the Bow interchange/flyover and other routes near Canary Wharf.

This is the case that a picture is better than a thousand words.

Now lets use this to get the cycling routes sorted out/maintained.

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yenrod [106 posts] 2 years ago
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Great that Strava are pushing these towards councils - HIGHLY COMMENDED !!!

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