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Strava Metro made free to cities worldwide, including UK, to help encourage sustainable travel post-pandemic

New data reveal 162 per cent year-on-year rise in cyclists in UK during May, with Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow leading the way

Strava Metro is to be made free to cities worldwide to provide insights to transport planners that will help them make streets safer for people who commute by bike. The news comes as Strava reveals the number of people cycling – at least those who use the social network for athletes – was 162 per cent higher in the UK in May 2020 compared to the same month last year.

That period coincided, of course, with the latter stages of the initial lockdown which was put in place across the country in late March, and which led to a boom in cycling both for exercise and for people who needed to commute to their workplaces, including key workers such as NHS staff, switching from public transport to bikes for their journeys.

Within UK cities, the biggest rise was seen in Liverpool, followed by Manchester and Glasgow, with the full top 10 as follows:

1. Liverpool – 222.04 per cent

2. Manchester – 169.73 per cent

3. Glasgow – 146.24 per cent

4. Birmingham – 134.59 per cent

5. London – 119.38 per cent

6. Newcastle – 115.38 per cent

7. Belfast – 107.11 per cent

8. Cardiff – 95.84 per cent

9. Bristol – 85.84 per cent

10. Sheffield – 78.46 per cent

Clearly, some of those cities will be seeing growth being built from a small base, but it is also worth noting that many of them have installed active travel champions, such as Simon O’Brien in Liverpool and Chris Boardman in Greater Manchester.

Boardman, the city-region’s cycling and walking champion, said: “During lockdown, roads were quieter and people felt safer so we saw a real surge in the number of people cycling and walking their journeys.

“Now we need to enable them to continue to travel on foot and by bike, making it part of their everyday routine.

“The data we receive from Strava Metro is helping us to get a greater insight into where, when and why people are cycling and walking. This sort of data is invaluable when making decisions about developing future infrastructure.”

According to the Strava Metro data, May 2020 was the peak month for growth in the number of people cycling, ahead of lockdown restrictions staring to be eased, with low levels of motor trafic helping encourage people to get in the saddle.

Until now, data from Strava Metro, which helps identify the routes where infrastructure is most needed, among other things, has been made available to transport planners and municipal authorities for a fee.

By providing the data for free from now on, Strava hopes to help accelerate growth in sustainable travel post-pandemic, with Mark Gainey, its co-founder and chairman, commenting: “We always believed there were special ways in which the Strava community could contribute to the world at-large.  Strava Metro was one such way.

“And given the growing need for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, we felt Strava Metro was too valuable and important not to make available to any organisation attempting to make a difference in designing the cities of the future.”

London's Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has transformed how Londoners think about travel, and we’ve been working to make cycling easier and safer for all, to help avoid a damaging car-led recovery and make sure the improvements in air quality made in lockdown are not lost.

“Strava Metro has played an important part in improving how we understand and plan for cycling in London, and highlights the shift towards sustainable modes of transport.

“By making this data freely available, cities can use it to plan improvements that will enable more people to walk, cycle and stay active.”

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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Jem PT | 3 years ago

This. I always use Strava when I'm on my roadie, but never when I commute on my Brompton or a Boris or Lime bike.

Doctor Fegg | 3 years ago
1 like

Meh. It's a really good way of finding where roadies go. It's not a great way of finding where utility cyclists go. If you look at the Strava heatmap for (say) Oxford or Cambridge, the divergence between what Strava records and what you can see on the streets, every day of the week, is pretty stark. Most commuters don't use Strava.

STATO replied to Doctor Fegg | 3 years ago

Data like this is never used in isolation. Before anything is done traffic surveys and studies would be carried out to look at what is going on on the ground.  What Strava Metro data does is give them a head start on showing that cycling does happen in an area, and some of the routes used.

Of course it does not show what the majority do, and it is heavily skewed to one demographic, but its a starting point that helps instigate action, rather than letting lazy councilors sit there and say 'no cyclists use this road, i drive on it and have never seen one'.

If you want to help the data show other routes, use it.  I can see my commuter routes on it (the free heatmap) quite clearly, certainly the main roads are brighter due to road club rides, but the bypasses and other quiet roads are present and show where people are going.


EDIT: Pretty sure Metro data can be filtered for time too, so would show commuters who record using strava.  You used to be able to do that on the free heatmap but think they took away the function.


mdavidford replied to STATO | 3 years ago
1 like

One of the drawbacks of data like this is only shows what routes people are using, rather than what routes they would prefer to use. So it can let lazy councilors sit there and say 'no cyclists use this road, i drive on it and have never seen one', while ignoring that they might use the road if it was redesigned to be less hostile to them.

Awavey replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago

but that in itself is useful information, if the council have put what they think is a top class cycle route or even just some adequate provision in, yet everyone is avoiding riding on it, that tells you to take alook at why people arent using it, do people not know about it, more signage/information needed or does it not actually meet their needs. so strava metro could show them that, when I commute I upload to strava, its easier than trying to make it an exception for my own data collection, so its not just leisure riders

mdavidford replied to Awavey | 3 years ago
1 like

Information is only as useful as the thought you put in to interpreting and applying it. If it was used in the way you describe, that would be useful, but they could equally well just conclude that it was a mistake putting in the cycle route in the first place and they might as well remove it. The question is, which is more likely. Unfortunately, there's a tendency to approach data with the attitude that "I have Data, so now I don't need to think!", which arguably makes the latter more likely.

Doctor Fegg replied to STATO | 3 years ago

I wish I shared your confidence, but I've seen County Council documents that do use Strava Metro in isolation.

STATO replied to Doctor Fegg | 3 years ago

well that is quite sad, but if they are using Metro data to do nothing, then they would be doing even more of nothing without the data.

Building new routes or options still needs data to show they would be used. There are many ways to get that data and Metro is just one feed into that, as you can see where people are going to/from. Another method is on street surveys stopping cyclists and asking where they are going; wider online/postal surveys hoping you get response; or just plain old judgement that people from <here> might want to go <there>, but we have always had that, and it doesnt tend to result in anything getting built.


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