CycleTracks for iPhone and Android

We are started Phase II of our CycleTracks data collection in San Francisco in November of 2013. You can still download the iOS or Android app versions today and start recording your trips. Every trip counts!

CycleTracks in San Francisco, PHASE II

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has been busy enhancing San Francisco's bicycle infrastructure over the last couple of years, and we want to know how it's going out there. We're finding out with the help of cyclists who install the CycleTracks smartphone application and use it to record their bike rides. Install CycleTracks and start logging your trips today! 

In 2010, we used CycleTracks to learn just how important bike lanes are. We also were able to use the data that was collected in our SF-CHAMP travel demand model to forecast how attractive bike facility A would be compared to facility B, and to understand the potential mode shifts that could occur with implementation of bike infrastructure. Now we have a lot more bike lanes and many other innovative facilities (i.e. parking-separated cycletracks, green-backed sharrows, and soft-hit posts) that we want to learn about.  

Ever wondered what effect building out the SFMTA bike plan had on cycling? Us too. The 2010 data collection was gathered "before" implementation of the bike plan, now we're looking at "after" data to see how the new facilities of changed the bicycling landscape. Think of it as an extensive follow-up survey where all you have to do is push a couple buttons before you take your regular rides. 

BACKGROUND: UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS OF CYCLISTS

CycleTracks uses smartphone GPS support to record users' bicycle trip routes and times, and display maps of their rides, in order to help transportation planners make informed decisions about bicycle use in the community. At the end of each trip, data representing the trip purpose, route, and the date and time are sent to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) for analysis. All personally identifiable data are kept confidential.* The Transportation Authority—or another agency using CycleTracks-uses the data to create models that better predict where cyclists will ride and how land developments and transportation infrastructure will affect cycling in the community. The SFCTA developed CycleTracks to help understand the needs of cyclists, in order to more effectively prioritize cycling infrastructure investments.

*—We retain the iPhone's Unique Device Identifier (UDID) or Android phone's Device ID in order to group trip data by users. No other identifying information is collected except with opt-in permission. Anonymous data may be shared with other public agencies and researchers for planning purposes.  We will never present anything publically that would expose your identity without your expressed permission.
 


CYCLETRACKS IN SAN FRANCISCO, PHase I: November 2009 through April 2010

Data Collected

The CycleTracks App was developed in 2009 to collect data in the San Francisco area for models that would predict what types of routes cyclists were likely to use, based on rider characteristics (e.g., level of experience) and characteristics of the bike network (hills, bike lanes, and sharrows).

How did we use CycleTracks data?

After several months of data collection, there was a sufficient amount of data to develop a bike route choice model. The results of the model development have been published in the peer-reviewed journal "Transportation Letters."

What does a bike route choice model do? It shows how more or less attractive it is to bike between two points in San Francisco, based on the relative scores of a multitude of routes. The purpose of the bike route choice model is to both (1) allow planners to understand in a quantitative and statistically valid way the trade-offs that cyclists are making when they are out biking (i.e., How far away are people willing to bike for a bike lane versus a sharrow?) and (2) incorporate the value of bicycle infrastructure into the SF-CHAMP travel demand model.

What did we Learn?

A few nuggets that we found from CycleTracks data in San Francisco:

  • Roads with bike lanes feel half as far, even for frequent cyclists.  In other words, frequent cyclists would equally choose a one-mile route that had bike lanes the whole way and a two mile route that did not.
  • Infrequent cyclists prefer bike lanes approximately twice as much as frequent cyclists.
  • Cyclists who aren't commuting are willing to bike out of there way one mile for every 100 feet of hill rise. The several hundred feet of hills avoided by taking "The Wiggle" feel like you've saved miles.
  • Commuters are more than three times as likely to go out of their way to avoid hills.
  • Bike route or sharrows have a marginal impact on the perception of one's bike route. Cyclists are willing to go out of their way by almost 10 percent in order to use them, but infrequent cyclists don't prefer them more in any statistically significant way.

The model even revealed the value of routes such as "The Wiggle" by demonstrating the distance people were willing to bike out of their way, rather than take more direct routes over nearby hills.

How is CycleTracks data used in SF-CHAMP, the official travel model for San Francisco?

Previously, SF-CHAMP did not have a way of understanding the value of a bike lane versus a regular street. With the completion of the bike route choice model, official travel forecasts are able to quantify in a statistically valid way the benefit of bike infrastructure on congestion, mode share, and active travel.

Incorporating the bike route choice model into SF-CHAMP makes San Francisco one of the first cities in the world to be able to quantitatively forecast changes in travel behavior-and the effects on congestion and greenhouse-gas emissions-as a result of bicycle infrastructure investment. Academic papers detailing this achievement are can be found at the bottom of this page.



CYCLETRACKS IN OTHER CITIES

Since the SFCTA declared the initial San Francisco project a success in 2010, a number of other agencies and municipalities have begun using CycleTracks to understand the needs of cyclists. As of August 2012, 4,365 users have submitted trips. 14% of users have submitted 10 or more trips.

Both the application (iPhone and Android versions) and the bike route choice model are open source and available on Github, to fork and rebrand. We have also made the (anonymized) data collected via the CycleTracks available to public agencies who wish to publicize the original application without reworking it, which allows agencies and researchers across the country to replicate and build on what we've done.

Cities collecting data with CycleTracks

Interested in using CycleTracks in your city? Contact Elizabeth Sall at the SFCTA.

CycleTracks rebranded and improved by other cities

Other derivative products:

Interested in how to make CycleTracks "your own"? This github page shows others who have forked us. And please join our Google group.

See our Slideshare presentation given during Transportation Research Board 2013 Annual Meeting, illustrating how we were able to transform CycleTracks' initial local data collection into a national effort with minimal marginal cost.

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PUBLICATIONS: USING CYCLETRACKS DATA TO UNDERSTAND THE NEEDS OF CYCLISTS

Associated papers and presentations:

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