VTA adopts CycleTracks app to track bike usage


Santa Clara Valley cycling heatmap from Strava

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in California now collects cycling data via the CycleTracks smart phone app.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority developed the CycleTracks app in 2009 to track bike trips, and other agencies around the nation have since adopted the same app to make spending decisions for bicycle facilities.

VTA says they will use app data to inform the County Bicycle Plan Update and improve the bicycle routing in VTA’s transportation modeling system. That system forecasts future transportation demand so their plans can adapt to anticipated changes.


CycleTracks app screenshots

The app itself is rudimentary with a somewhat clunky interface. I think the hope is that everyday cyclists — i.e. people who normally won’t log trips with Strava or other athlete-oriented activity tracking tools — will use CycleTracks to log their trips. From the data I’ve seen from other regions using this app, usage seems to mostly be both long distance recreational riders and a few hardcore advocates. In other words, CycleTracks captures data from the same population that already uses Strava, Garmin Connect, and so forth.

People I’ve spoken with from these agencies tell me some demographics who are both more likely to ride bicycles who are also suspicious of government tracking activities will actively avoid using apps such as this.

Local bike advocates already plan to bring these shortcomings up at the next VTA BPAC meeting.

Still, if you want VTA to know where you ride your bike in Santa Clara County, I encourage you to submit your ride data to VTA. I’ve been doing this for the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments for a few years now (though very inconsistently). The app seems to co-exist peacefully with other GPS apps on my Android phone.

More information, download page, etc at VTA –> Use CycleTracks to Improve Bicycle Commuting.

8 Comments

  • Anonymous
    June 4, 2015 - 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Is it possible to export Strava rides into a format that the VTA could use? I would love to share my data but don’t want to have to launch two parallel apps…

  • Bike-Scoot
    June 4, 2015 - 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Can they make the app so that it runs in the background, so you can run Strava at the same time?

  • June 4, 2015 - 3:04 pm | Permalink

    @Anon – I wish.

  • June 4, 2015 - 3:04 pm | Permalink

    @Scoot – it does run in the background and seems to co-exist well with Strava on my phone (Samsung Galaxy S4)

  • Osric
    June 4, 2015 - 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Strava sells their data to local planning agencies… why not just buy that rather than recreating the wheel?

  • Mikael
    June 5, 2015 - 12:12 pm | Permalink

    http://www.sfcta.org/modeling-and-travel-forecasting/cycletracks-iphone-and-android/cycletracks-smartphone-application

    “In order to remind you that the app is running and to save your battery, your phone will ring like a bicycle bell after 15 minutes, and every 5 minutes thereafter.”

    Really? Doesn’t sound like anything I’d like to deal with.
    And I’m supposed to turn it on and fill out ‘purpose of the trip’ before every trip I do? For me, it’s hard enough to remember to turn on Strava when I get on the bike to run a 20 minute errand, and that’s an app that I’m used to getting to when I do longer trips.

    Not to mention that while I see the purpose of getting an overview of where people bike, I don’t understand why it would matter what the purpose of the trip is.

  • Bike-Scoot
    June 5, 2015 - 12:15 pm | Permalink

    The conclusion from the data are useful only if the planners and DOTs actually pay attention to them.

    From…..http://www.sfcta.org/modeling-and-travel-forecasting/cycletracks-iphone-and-android

    “…..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.”

    Yet even though this only supports other such data, San Jose recently installed sharrows alone, with no associated traffic calming measures. And for what reason…to produce a statistically insignificant result? And why would they do this? Often its to preserve sometimes almost completely unused street parking which could be converted to bike lanes (which actually do product significant results). There is simply no way SJDOT could not have known sharrows alone were useless in most cases, but they did it anyway.

    See this video for more proof that sharrows alone simply don’t work.
    https://youtu.be/aWZzuAQGSRo

  • Rider
    June 10, 2015 - 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I do not understand the mentality that thinks that riders who use Strava to track their rides and commutes because it is a extremely well-designed and easily used app are should be excluded from planning decisions. The site labs.strava.com/heatmap/ shows the routes that these riders prefer.

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