Every system has areas that need improvement. Census statistics are valuable when done comprehensively. While detailing population, the US Census works a very painstaking process of enumeration derived from hours, months, and years of leg work. This system has a blind spot in regards to bicycles, however. Fortunately M7, a 10-month-old computer chip for the Apple iPhone, may help to remedy this issue.
People for Bikes reports that the US Census is only calculating a small, distinct segment of bicycle trips — going to work (only 20 percent of trips). It is disappointing that the US Census provides only limited traces of bicycle activity. We must have demographic corrections. In fact, US Census statistics are flawed measures accounting for the less active bicyclist — the bicyclists that US cities are transforming their infrastructures to encourage and include.
The Apple iPhone computer chip, aptly named Human, is comprehensive.
Human helps people move almost twice as much in six weeks. Every day, people track millions of activities with our app. We visualized 7.5 million miles of activity in major cities all across the globe to get an insight into Human activity. Walking, running, cycling, and motorized transportation data tell us different stories.
Michael Andersen, of Green Lane Project, points out the considerable value of this one source over the Census: “This M7, a chip introduced last year that lets users gather data about their movements even while their smartphones are asleep, is the hardware behind Human, and activity-tracking mobile app.”
This activity tracking mobile app was happily welcomed. The app uses the speed of a user’s movements. It produces maps of walking, biking, running, and motor vehicles in 30 cities around the world.
As Andersen puts it: “A way to track mode share and route choice the moment a project opens.”
Bicyclist activists, enthusiasts, and supporters working towards policy changes in the US want to become like European cities, such as Copenhagen. We want to see traffic policies include bicycles more (4 lights on stop lights, protected bike paths integrated throughout the city, etc). Still, large bodies of the population, who have much to experience through advantages of biking (i.e., the aged, the young, the out of money, health conscious people, etc).
Andersen quotes traffic engineer of the City of Austin Nathan Wilkes, who believes that the Human apps/maps are the tip of the iceberg:
If the users of apps like Human can provide just a few demographic indicators, Wilkes says, planners would be able to compensate for underrepresented groups and calculate not only how a city’s transportation choices are shifting in real-time, but which streets people are choosing.
“It doesn’t seem like a far stretch to be able to have monthly updates to the heat maps to the point where we could see, ‘Oh, we just installed the cycle track on this facility: this is month one, month two, month three, month four,'” said Wilkes, the city’s lead bikeway planner and designer.
The movement that we do as part of our normal routine defines our health, as well as our environmental footprint. This is why green activists work so continually for infrastructure changes, making this possible for more people, and making it safer to bicycle late into the evening in Amsterdam and like places. To make this happen, one must offer comprehensive data.
Human tracks all parts of the journey — the integrated traveler who drives, walks, bikes, and rides the bus. Strava, a heat map service, is helpful and popular with the bicyclists and pedestrians, as it visualizes for us where people bike and walk.
“It’s stuff that normal people do all the time,” Nathan Wilkes said. “If you’re shopping in the grocery store and you walk around for 20 minutes, that’s 20 minutes of walking.”
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