Where do people bike in Melrose?

This is the first in a series of data-oriented posts on the Melrose Ped/Bike blog to celebrate Bay State Bike Week.

Here’s a map showing data collected on bike trips:

Strava bike map

Bike trips in Melrose [click image to enlarge]

Lines that are wider and at the red end of the spectrum reflect the most bike trips, while narrower bluer lines are locations with fewer bike trips.

The information comes from the Strava application, which people use to map and measure their rides, and every data point comes from geolocation data for people who are actually out on their bikes. There are 77,688,848 rides described by over 200 billion data points in the full global data. The fact that it records real world activity makes it an unusually good data set. In contrast, the state of the art for bike trip data used by city planners across the country is to periodically (usually not more than annually) station volunteers at a handful of preselected points for multi-hour shifts to do manual counts.

Caveats

There are, of course, a couple precautionary statements that should go along with this data:

1. It only captures a subset of the population. Strava users tend to be smartphone-wielding technophiles or bicycle enthusiasts, and this leaves out a wide range of people. Based on real-world observation, we think a large proportion of biking is done by commuters who are riding inexpensive bikes that they don’t want stolen when they leave them outside or at the train station all day. The next most active population may be middle/high school aged kids. Neither of these groups is likely to be well represented in the Strava data, and without other data sources for comparison, it is difficult to know how much this leaves out.

2. While this data set provides a rare glimpse into where people actually ride, it doesn’t say anything about where people want to ride or what trips would change from car travel to bike travel if they felt safer. As we were reminded by a recent tweet, you don’t decide where to build a bridge by counting the number of people swimming:

You don't decide where to build a bridge by counting the swimmers

What does the data tell us?

Despite the caveats, this map is rich with useful information. One clear insight is that it gives credence to arguments put forth in the past by the Ped/Bike committee that an important area of focus for improvement is on the principal arteries within Melrose: Main Street, Lynn Fells Parkway, and Franklin Street.

What patterns do you see in the data?

 

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