Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

19 April 2018

Will A Ride Report Lead To A Better Bike Lane?

On this blog, I have lamented the poor planning, design and construction of too many bike lanes and other kinds of bike infrastructure.  Some of you have suggested--and I would agree--that it is in large part due to planners who don't understand cycling because, by and large, they don't ride themselves.

If someone doesn't ride, the only accurate information he or she can receive about riding conditions and the needs of cyclists will come from other cyclists.  Of course, the best information of all comes in "real time":  In other words, from records of cyclists as they cycle rather than "snapshots" of who passes through a given point at a given moment.

At least, that seems to be the thinking of transportation planners in--you guessed it--Portland.  They have just signed an agreement with Ride Report, a local tech startup, to share user data with them.  The company's free smartphone application automatically tracks trips and gives users the ability to immediately rate the route's safety, whether it's great, mixed or not so great.



Of course, this cannot provide complete data:  The city has no plans to mandate it for cyclists.  Still, it would almost certainly provide more useful information than taking counts at 280 intersections, as Portland currently does.  Such counts cannot be done continuously and require trained volunteers--who, no matter how good they are, don't always collect precise information.  Moreover, the apps could collect information from cyclists who don't have the time or inclination to attend planning meetings.  

Ride Report says that the data made available will be anonymous.  According to its terms of service, however, it may share demographic data like age or gender if the user agrees, though such agreement is not a requirement for signing up to use the app.

Make what you will of that promise.  As far as I know, no executives of a certain social media company I won't name are involved in the project!


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