The city of Portland, Oregon, is known for its enthusiast support of cycling. With 345 miles of bikeways snaking around and through its urban core, Portland has more cyclists per capita than any other town.
Now a new project between the tech industry and city officials aims to make biking in Portland even easier.
Tech entrepreneur and cyclist William Henderson has created an app called Ride, which asks cyclists to collect data as they cruise around Portland. That data will then help the city to plan better cycling infrastructure, like signals, lanes, safer routes and where to avoid traffic.
Currently, 6 percent of Portland’s population cycles to work. But that number leaps to 25 percent in the inner city, which is well above the national average of less than 1 percent.
“Right now, we have some great infrastructure for biking and walking and transit in Portland,” Henderson says. “But we’re really not going to get any more space for our roads as the city grows, so we have to make more efficient use of it.”
Software developer Chris Jones is using the app during this pilot phase. Jones says he likes it because it automatically starts tracking his route as soon as he starts pedaling.
“It’s nice to not have to open the app and say, ‘OK, here we go, I’m starting my commute now.’ I want to just get on my bike and go where I’m going,” says Jones.
The goal is to have between 5,000 to 10,000 cyclists using Ride by the end of the summer.
In addition to the app, Henderson is installing wireless bike-counting sensors around the city to count cyclists. The idea is to replace Portland’s old methods, which includes volunteers on street corners making pen-and-paper tallies.
For Margi Bradway, active transportation manager at the Portland Bureau of Transportation, this new technology offers exciting possibilities.
“One of the reasons I’m really interested in this data is to understand cyclist types and cyclist behaviors. So when is someone willing to go on a busier street for a more direct route, versus a local street that’s further away?” Bradway says. “When we get this data, we’ll start to see patterns to help us shape the future for cycling.”