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Using real-time data to create a cycling map of London

Posted: April 17th, 2010 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: activism, cycling, data, mapping | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

I cycle to work everyday through the streets of London. It can be pretty crazy out there, but it’s good exercise and a lot better than taking public transport. As a way to motivate myself I have been tracking my route, average speed and time with an app called Run Keeper. I suspect that many other London cyclists are doing similar things and wonder if there’s something we could do with all of the collected data that would benefit all cyclists?

I may have an answer care of Assaf Biderman, the Associate Director of MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory. In a recent PopTech presentation he presented various projects where MIT have utilised data sets gathered from mobile phones and other digital sensors as a way to build up an understanding of the built environment and our use of it. One project called the Copenhagen wheel looked at using bicycles to collect data about air quality, routes,  etc. and Biderman proposed one use of it could be to send the data to local authorities. On a side note there’ll be a presentation on the use of bicycles in urban environments at MIT on April 28 with Biderman and David Byrne (amongst others). Link here

Biderman doesn’t offer much more than an idea that the data could be sent to local authorities, but what I imagine could happen is that we could collect lots of different cyclist routes, combine them into the one heat map, and then create a powerful presentation to councils about where we need better cycling facilities. Imagine if we could see where the main commuter routes are: we could then argue with hard data that HGVs should be banned on these roads at those particular times. And I mean a proper ban, not like the current London Lorry Control Scheme which only restricts lorries using London roads between 9pm and 7am on weekdays and 1pm Saturday to 7am Monday (unless of course you’re a cement truck delivering to the Shard building this weekend: 700 return trips over two days). This ban means that lorries drivers have reduced times to deliver their goods and can tend to be a bit (ahem) rushed in the mornings, just as the majority of vulnerable cyclists are out on the roads. Have a read of the iBike London Blog for more info on this.

I notice that lorry drivers, car drivers, and motorbike riders are being catered for with rich data maps from the Public Information Exchange to help them plan their routes. Isn’t it about time that cyclists got together and started something similar? Anyone else up for it?

One Comment on “Using real-time data to create a cycling map of London”

  1. 1 Andreas said at 9:27 am on April 17th, 2010:

    Of-course data like this would be extremely useful. I’m guessing a fair amount of funding would be required to collect all this but if it can somehow be integrated with the iPhone application then a lot of people will already have the device required to send the data. I’d be happy to have my cycling usage tracked for a week if it would mean my routes were better catered for. It would also be interesting to see what sort of average speeds people are hitting so we can comment on the fastest routes into central.

    One of the main requests for information I’ve had on my blog is: Which is the best route into central London? I think with something like this if we were showing there was a high enough usage then perhaps we could start to get some roads closed down to just cyclists which I’m sure would be a huge incentive for people.

    If you need any help from me getting a project like this off the ground then let me know and I’d be happy to lend a hand.

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