Portland Takes Lead in Gathering Data to Improve Cycling

A report on the public radio program Marketplace this week focused on yet another way that our city is becoming a leader in promoting cycling. According to the report, a locally-based tech entrepreneur “has created an app called Ride, which asks cyclists to collect data as they cruise around Portland. The data will then help the city plan better cycling infrastructure, like signals, lanes, safer routes and where to avoid traffic.”

The report notes that around six percent of Portlanders use bikes to travel to and from work, a figure far above the national average of one percent. More dramatically, “that number leaps to 25 percent in the inner city.” Combine this with almost 350 miles of bike infrastructure in and around Portland and our city is uniquely well-equipped to help people improve both their health and the environment by replacing cars with bikes.

Unfortunately, Portland bicycle accidents involving traffic remain far more common than they should be. The hope is that by collecting a constant, and far more accurate, stream of data those accidents can be curbed – something that would benefit everyone.

The radio program reports that “the goal is to have between 5,000 and 10,000 cyclists using Ride by the end of the summer.” In addition, the team behind Ride “is installing wireless bike-counting sensors around the city” with the goal of improving on existing data collection methods (which often involve volunteers with pens and paper sitting on street corners, Marketplace reports).

As a Portland bike riders’ lawyer I applaud this initiative and hope it moves our already bike-friendly city even further forward. While we can all be proud of the efforts Portland has made in promoting cycling, it is also true that even here controversy can arise over the extension of bike facilities, especially when it impacts space available for cars. As one of Ride’s proponents notes, “we’re not going to get any more space for our roads as the city grows, so we have to make more efficient use of it.”

 

Marketplace: New app aims to improve cycling in Portland