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Strava moves into 'big data' - London & Glasgow already signed up to find out where cyclists ride

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 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.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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