Strava’s new tool lets smaller cities unlock their transportation data

A stream of bikers rides down a city street.Getty
Images/EyeEm

Moving from GIS to a web platform makes Strava’s data more
accessible to cities with less resources

Strava is a fitness app used by more than 47 million runners and
bikers, who use to it to track their routes, mileage, or even
commutes to work. What those runners and bikers may not realize is
that by using the app, they’re
arming city planners and researchers
with the data they need to
help cities improve the bike lanes and sidewalks they depend on for
safety.

Strava Metro, the
company’s data product, offers cities street-level data about
pedestrian and bike usage that can be used to fine-tune an
infrastructure project in the works or make the case for it to
skeptical city officials. On Wednesday, Strava rolled out the third
iteration of Metro—an entirely different web platform the company
believes is more user- friendly, allowing cities with fewer
resources to take advantage of the tool.

“[Previously] we would share datasets in a GIS format, so
you’d need to download the data and work with it in a GIS
platform,” said Rodrigo Davies, the team lead on Strava Metro.
“We heard from small- and medium-sized cities that don’t
necessarily have that expertise in-house, [and] they wanted to be
able to consume these insights in a web browser without any setup
time to get to the meat of what’s happening with bike and
pedestrian activity right away. So that’s what we’ve built. The
web experience is completely new to people.”

Here’s a simplified example of how Metro might help a city.
Say a city official wants to analyze whether a proposed bike lane
from one end of the city to the other would be helpful to riders.
They could use Metro to find the most commonly used route between
two destinations, in addition to the most direct route.

If the most common route is wildly divergent from the most
direct route, it could indicate a bike lane along the most direct
route could help bikers shave time off their work commute. The data
can also be used to analyze areas that pose a high risk of traffic
collisions, which might be avoided by people on bikes, and devise
potential solutions to the problem.

To date, the company claims it has helped more than 300
communities improve infrastructure for bikers and pedestrian. Among
its clients are the departments of transportation for Seattle,
Colorado, New Hampshire, Louisiana, and Oregon, in addition to a
number of nonprofits and academic institutions.

Strava Metro is an example of a tech company leveraging its user
data to build a product for a third party. This model has come
under increased scrutiny of late due to privacy concerns,
particularly in the transportation data world
, but the company
says it is mindful of such concerns.

Strava’s user data is anonymized and aggregated, so a third
party wouldn’t have access to a single person’s travel
patterns. While the company is selling the data to third parties,
it has pledged to “only work with organizations that plan, own or
maintain infrastructure or seek to positively influence planning
processes.” It specifically notes it won’t work with real
estate developers, financial services companies, or retailers.

Source: FS – All – Architecture 10
Strava’s new tool lets smaller cities unlock their transportation data