Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Strava Global Heatmap: Where people cycle and run in the South of Fraser

Strava is an application platform that allows people to track their bicycle rides and runs. Strava is available on iPhone, Android, and select GPS units. The platform offers both a free and premium membership.

The platform is popular among cyclist and runners as it allows them to set goals, view detailed maps and analyze past activity. It also includes a social component with the usual share features and leaderboards.

As you can imagine, Strava has a lot of useful information about where people go. This information is extremely useful when planning for active transportation infrastructure in communities. Strava has maps based on this data available online at labs.strava.com. Called Global Heatmap, it allows you to drill down and see where people cycling and run (or not).

Strava also offers more detailed data at metro.strava.com. This data can be plugged into GIS mapping systems. GIS is used by urban and transportation planner. With this high-quality data, planners can better plan for active transportation infrastructure.

Strava Global Heatmap for cycling in the South of Fraser. Select map to enlarge.

As an example, the Greater Langley Cycling Coalition had to advocate heavily to get the Township of Langley to include 0 Avenue in that community's cycling network. While the coalition knew that this was one of the most population cycling routes in Langley, information from Strava could have confirmed this local knowledge quickly. The Global Heatmap shows that indeed 0 Avenue is one of the busiest routes in the community.

When looking at the Heatmap, it becomes clear that the City of Langley is a bit of a black hole for cyclist. The City of Langley, for example, could use this information to plan where to build cycling infrastructure to encourage more cycling.

One of the challenges with the Strava dataset is that it skewed away from commuter or casual cyclists, as the platform is geared towards more hard-core riders. Also, the information provided by Strava is less likely to include data from people with lower incomes as they are less likely to use platforms like Strava. These shortcomings aside, Strava’s dataset is extremely useful and should be a part of every planner's toolkit in the South of Fraser as it can be used to help encourage cycling and walking.

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