Creating a Bicycle Suitability Map

On August 17th 2016, the River Valley Geospatial Community held a meeting to discuss geographic information systems (GIS) and bicycle transportation infrastructure. The meeting was held at Troy State University on thier Phenix City campus.

There has been a lot of talk about Strava Heat Map and it's application to planning cycling infrustructure. Many cyclists are using their mobile phones to record their cycling routes and performance.

Strava is one of the most popular apps for this purpose. The company has amassed a huge database of individual bicycle rides that they have developed into a product they can sell. Strava Metro is a data service sold to municiple planning agencies for approximately $3,000 per month.


Open source alternatives to Strava

In 2010, San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) created the CycleTracks program to collect data from bicycle riders on how bike lanes and other cycling infrustruture were being used. The CycleTracks app in now open source and can be modified for use by any city. The city of Columbus Ga implimented thier own version of the app for about $2,000. They promoted the app with commercial partners and a rewards program. Data collected goes to the local planning department to help design future roads improvements and bicycle infrastructure.

The Fountain City Cycling app is a version of CycleTracks modified for the Columbus area. This custom software was created for a total investment of $2,000. Rewards were available for frequent users through a partnership with local businesses. Users have the option to share demographic data including age, income, sex, and occupation.

One of the challenges was to get a large number of cyclists to use the app. Most users were male fitness riders in their forties. A game and rewards were introduced to boost the appeal to wider range of cyclists. The ideal data source would include information from every cyclist: young/old, rich/poor, training/working/touring.

The City of Atlanta has their own custom smartphone app that collects data to share with transportation planners.
Read about it here Cycle Atlanta

Creating bicycle routes without a mobile app

Auburn Alabama created a web-based Bicycle Suitability Map the old-fashioned way. They rode every street in the city and taking note of its suitablility for bicycle travel. Roads were classified as red, yellow, or green; depending on speeds, traffic volume, and pavement condition. Data was compiled by the local bicycle users group. The Auburn site is a routing tool that selects bicycle-friendly streets for a given start and destination.

"Ride the City" is a website (and mobile app) that helps you find safer bike routes in cities. "Ride the City" avoids roads that aren't meant for biking, and steers cyclists toward routes that maximize the use of bike lanes, bike paths, greenways, and other bike-friendly streets. Users designate bicycle-friendly streets and the app creates a route from these streets.

Bicycle Suitability Maps can be compiled from existing data. Your local GIS office may already have data such as traffic volumes, average speed, and pavement age. A map generated using these inputs is called a Bicycle Level of Service (BLOS) map, or sometimes a Bicycle Level of Comfort (BLOC) map.

GIS inputs are:

What is bicycle infrastruture?
bike lanes, sharrows, bike racks for parking, rail-trails, "share the road" signs

Some schools have a "bicycle class" as part of thier driver education program. This can start as early as 4th grade. The rules of the road are the same, whether on a bicycle or driving a car. Teach them early.

See also a page about measuring pavement surface conditions at:

Kevin Haywood
trailmapper (a) yahoo com