New Publication Evaluates the Potential of Crowdsourced Data to Estimate Network-Wide Bicycle Volumes


How can emerging data sources most effectively be integrated with traditional sources? A new article in the July 2023 issue of Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board reports that rather than replacing conventional bike data sources and count programs, old “small” data sources will likely be very important for big data sources like Strava and StreetLight to achieve their potential for predicting annual average daily bicycle traffic (AADBT).

The article, "Evaluating the Potential of Crowdsourced Data to Estimate Network-Wide Bicycle Volumes," was authored by TREC researchers Joe Broach, Sirisha Kothuri and Nathan McNeil of Portland State University along with Md Mintu Miah, Kate Hyun and Stephen Mattingly of the University of Texas at Arlington, Krista Nordback of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Frank Proulx of Frank Proulx Consulting, LLC.

Transportation agencies have invested heavily in count infrastructure and models to estimate motor vehicle volumes through networks. Efforts to develop network wide bicycle volume estimates have been hampered by lack of bicycle counters and limited other data sources from which to draw volume estimates. Until recently, most data on bicycle activity came from national or regional household travel surveys, along with observed counts of cyclists—either short-duration manual or longer-term automated counts—at a limited set of locations.

In recent years, emerging new sources of bicycling activity data have offered new opportunities to understand bicycle activity. Top among these sources are smartphone app-based GPS trackers (e.g., Strava Metro), GPS-enabled devices which provide location data (e.g., StreetLight), and bike share systems with user trip route information.

Based on a pooled-fund study from the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the research integrated and evaluated emerging user data sources (Strava Metro, StreetLight, and hybrid docked/dockless bike share) of bicycle activity data with conventional “static” demand determinants (land use, built environment, sociodemographics) and measures (permanent and short-duration counts) to estimate annual average daily bicycle traffic (AADBT). Read more about the original study.

Photo by lakshmiprasad S/iStock

The National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) is one of seven U.S. Department of Transportation national university transportation centers. NITC is a program of the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University. This PSU-led research partnership also includes the Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Arizona, University of Oregon, University of Texas at Arlington and University of Utah. We pursue our theme — improving mobility of people and goods to build strong communities — through research, education and technology transfer.

Portland State University's Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) is home to the U.S. DOT funded National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI), PORTAL, BikePed Portal and other transportation grants and programs. We produce impactful research and tools for transportation decision makers, expand the diversity and capacity of the workforce, and engage students and professionals through education and participation in research.

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