Recently, the company behind Strava, an app designed to track running and cycling activity for individual athletes and bike commuters, released “Strava Metro”. The idea behind Strava Metro is to aggregate individual runs and bike rides into a product that transportation planners and advocates can use in active transportation planning. On the surface, the heat maps Strava produces are impressive, if not mesmerizing. The chief complaint I have with Strava, however, is that it requires active intervention by the user to collect data. This skews the data Strava collects toward bike “roadies”, “mountain bikers”, and long distance commuters rather than utility/cargo/last miler cyclists. My personal experience with Strava reflects this as I’ve long used Strava to track my bike commutes but often don’t bother to track my short ride to the Park & Ride or the two mile ride I make to the grocery store. Strava also makes no attempt to include walking data which is a huge omission, especially when the goal is to remove impediments to active transportation choices. All this means that Strava’s heat maps are, at best, a flawed and impartial view into how people choose to get around their city.
A better alternative would be an app that tracks all activities throughout the day without intervention by the user. The tracked data would be anonymized, aggregated, and published in maps useful for active transportation planners and advocates. While I have yet to find a source as well presented as Strava’s Heat Maps, a close second can be found in Human Co’s city ranking site. This site presents aggregated movement data for users of Human, a simple app designed to encourage users to move at least 30 minutes a day. The data gathered by Human is still skewed toward a demographic that includes smart phone users and would need to be used with caution, but at least it makes an attempt to gather data on ALL of the ways we move around our cities, including motorized transport. The biggest surprise I found: Washington DC ranks higher than New York in “Active Transportiation” (Non-motorized trips) as well as walking trips.
Let’s hope that Human Co enhances this data and encourages more data collection, beyond their current targeted demographic of people trying to move at least 30 minutes a day.
I have been contemplating ditching our 2nd car for several years but have been reluctant for various reasons. While we have decent bus service near our home, many routes aren’t in service when I need to be at work. Additionally, while the base is only a 25 minute bike ride away, there are hills, a high school with inexperienced teenage drivers, and misty eye-glass obscuring conditions between here and there from time to time. Most days I’m fine riding into work but there are times where a “cumulative disincentive” builds up to the point where I just drive. Lastly, there are the memories of several heavy snow days where only our trusty Subaru could get me into work. Well, maybe a Salsa Mukluk could too. Or I could walk. And then there are those snowshoes gathering dust in the garage.
All that worrying aside, we’ve only driven our Subaru 2,000-3,000 miles per year since we bought our Prius. Additionally, many of those miles were for what I call “pity” drives – Times where I could have used another mode of transportation, or our Prius, but decided to take the Subaru to keep the fluids moving and the battery charged. But all in all, I really don’t need a car to get to work. My wife, on the other hand, does. Thankfully she is able to work from home many days which means I’ll still have access to a car at home from time to time. Additionally, I have 8 Zipcars within a 15 minute bus or bike ride as well. I’ve also been meaning to try out the many taxis I see in Bellevue as well.
I’m sure this decision will require some sacrifices such as getting up a little earlier to ride in every day or figuring out how to ride in sub-freezing temperatures – something I’ve been reluctant to do because of a combination of hills, ice, and knowing a fellow bus driver who broke his hip riding into work in icy conditions. But I’m excited to give it a shot and will keep you all up to date on the highs and lows of being car-lite in the suburbs.