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New app lets you determine future bike lanes in Toronto

Posted by Chris Bateman / May 21, 2014

bike lane app torontoThe City of Toronto wants to know where cyclists are riding their bikes, and it's launching a new mobile app that tracks their every move, if users want it to, of course. Toronto Cycles, which is available for iPhone and Android, records and uploads details about where, when, and why people ride bikes in Toronto.

"It's pretty simple," says Dan Egan, the city's cycling manager. "When you start your trip you just turn it on and when you finish your trip you turn it off. It will upload the data to a server where it's kept anonymously and it will allow us to monitor and look at cycling trends in the city."

But don't worry about big brother issuing tickets for riding the wrong way down a one way street. The software, Egan says, only generates anonymous data that will be used to map the desire lines of cyclists, not to punish riders for taking a convenient shortcut.

"The first step is to get a better sense of where people are riding. We do get some of that information from surveys asking people where they ride, but this could help us map out the routes ... it will show up on a map as a line but we will never be able to identify who's doing what."

This being the work of a curious local government, however, the "About You" section that users are encouraged to complete asks questions about age, income, destinations (generalized to just the first three digits of a postal code,) comfort level sharing the road with other vehicles, and whether it is comfortable to ride during winter.

The app will cost about $20,000 to develop and run over the next year.

toronto cyclesIn an effort to encourage new users, the app also records average, current, and maximum speeds, calories burned, and greenhouse gas offset, like other popular activity-monitoring applications, such as Strava and Cyclemeter.

The data from Toronto Cycles will eventually be folded into a comprehensive cycling report that is due to presented to city council in 2015. The new official cycling plan, still currently a work in progress, is promising to expand on the city's existing 570 kilometres of bike lane.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Xander Labayen /blogTO Flickr pool.



Sean / May 21, 2014 at 05:51 am
BUT FIRST... Let's get these cyclists licenced and insured to pay for these bike lanes and for their safety.
Randy / May 21, 2014 at 07:01 am
There's an app for that!!!!
Amy / May 21, 2014 at 07:17 am
Please ignore Sean he's just trolling for controversial comments. We all know were never going to license and insure cyclists. Move on, nothing to see here.
Adam H. replying to a comment from Sean / May 21, 2014 at 07:27 am
Sean, we already pay for bike lanes; it's called property tax, and we cyclists get less services for our dollar than you freeloading drivers.

Also DO explain how licensing and insurance makes a cyclist 'safer'. Let's see if you can do a convincing imitation of someone who isn't demanding those things out of spite.
Jeff / May 21, 2014 at 08:38 am
$20,000 for this app and to run it for one year??? Couldn't the city find an off the shelf solution? Aren't there apps that do this already?

I agree with Sean in the sense that will it show cyclists going through red lights, stop signs, wrong way on one way streets, etc? I cycle in the city as well and just can't believe how many cyclists don't obey any rules of the road (including bicycle cops who aren't even responding to a call). I want to hear the statistics about how many of these collisions with cyclists are due to cyclists not obeying the rules of the road vs. drivers not paying attention (texting/etc).
asdfs / May 21, 2014 at 09:19 am
@BlogTO Please fix your website so we can downvote stupid comments.
Gee replying to a comment from Jeff / May 21, 2014 at 09:39 am
Jeff, I would argue that there are shite-ton more drivers out there who break the speed limit than cyclists who roll through red lights.
J-Dan replying to a comment from Jeff / May 21, 2014 at 09:40 am
It frustrates me too, but the real problem is city bylaws that make no sense and end up pitting cyclists against each other.

Please read this:

It's called the Idaho Stop, and it's something that all cities should really be looking harder at. If nothing else, having similar laws throughout each province, city, country..could stabilize the frustration. Don't forget too, no matter whether you're a cyclist, driver, pedestrian, there's always going to be people doing things that you would never do. It's human nature.
deekay / May 21, 2014 at 09:47 am
Sadly, I only bike in areas with already-designated lanes for safety reasons. Route wish list would be nice! I also think the Richmond/Adelaide temp bike lanes will be helpful!
Alli VB / May 21, 2014 at 09:48 am
As a cyclist, I've love to see a one time cycling test that people are expected to pass before they cycle on the streets. Things as common as turn signals aren't known to all cyclists and you wouldn't believe the number of people who think stop signs don't apply to bikes.

Or we get whoever designed those "sneeze into your elbow" signs to do some public outreach. That person nailed it.
ROB FORD ON CRACK / May 21, 2014 at 09:53 am
So because drivers break the law we should tolerate when cyclists do it? I love how cycling pinkos leave logic at the door they always forget it on their way out.

Also this post needs more FORD!
horsepower82 / May 21, 2014 at 10:15 am
They should allow the ability to upload rides recorded on GPS based cycling computers as well. I hate tracking rides with my phone, drains my battery on longer rides.
km / May 21, 2014 at 10:17 am
Where this app fails for me is that I go out of my way to cycle safer roads with better infrastructure and fewer potholes, so it's rather useless in determining where new bike lanes should go. Perhaps it would be more telling to note where there's an absence of cyclists, or where the routes divert from otherwise heavily populated areas with tons or traffic, i.e. Bloor.

I like the idea in theory (though am rather skeptical of a tracking device developed and used by the government), but perhaps it needs to include the opportunity to say why you take that route and if you'd rather ride elsewhere if bike lanes existed.
How replying to a comment from Sean / May 21, 2014 at 10:23 am
How about no.
Gee replying to a comment from ROB FORD ON CRACK / May 21, 2014 at 10:34 am
You missed the point. Drivers routinely drive 15 to 20% faster than the posted limit because that's the accepted social norm, partly evidenced by "15kph-over" ticket issuing. Why shouldn't it be acceptable for cyclists to carefully roll stop signs... it's unlikely most cyclists will even get close to the posted speed limits...
Andrea replying to a comment from km / May 21, 2014 at 10:36 am
AGREED! Alot of us are choosing ALTERNATE routes because of the lack of bike lanes and if bike lanes we're where they're supposed to be I wouldn't be choosing alternate routes.
Tracking my cycling shouldn't determine where they go.

Just like the subway bike lanes should be for the masses of cyclists, its not that hard to figure out. We need a few east west routes and a downtown relief cycling path.
Delay Delay Delay / May 21, 2014 at 10:41 am
"The data from Toronto Cycles will eventually be folded into a comprehensive cycling report that is due to presented to city council in 2015." YAWN!!!!

More dollars spent and data collection compiled into a report that no one will read and will not help city hall make any decisions on this. We all know what's needed, why are we delaying talks until 2015. Just a delaying game...

Chuck replying to a comment from Delay Delay Delay / May 21, 2014 at 10:42 am
Yes instead of them doing any actual progress on the cities cycling needs, they'll set back and let an app apparently try and do the work for them.
Gabe / May 21, 2014 at 10:44 am
The cyclists are getting hungry and angry about our lack of progress, we have no update for them what can we do?

I know, release an APP!
Sam / May 21, 2014 at 10:48 am
What about those that don't have a smart phone, or don't want to use it as part of our cycling lifestyle? I'm commuting to work I'll turn on my phone when I get there thank you very much.

Last thing I need to do in my morning routine is launch a cycling app before I leave the house. I do not mess around with my phone while on my bike.
Stu / May 21, 2014 at 10:50 am
Ahh cool is the city paying for my data use now too if I'm contributing to their study!!! AWESOME!!! Free Wifi for all of Toronto!
Greg / May 21, 2014 at 11:01 am
Waste of $$$ !! already been done by thousands of cyclists!
Tony / May 21, 2014 at 11:06 am
This is a good idea -- if they act on it. I do a lot of cycling around the city/GTA. I hope they use this info to improve the cycling routes in mid/up town.

The answer is YES to the question can they mine this data to see if people are riding the wrong way on a one way street, or not stopping at lights and stop signs -- if they want to.

I wish people would stop referring to people as Drivers or Cyclists or Pedestrians. We are all PEOPLE with personalities. If you are irresponsible or hazardous or aggressive or or or, you will be those things in a car, on a bike, in a pair of shoes. How about waking up in the morning with a commitment to being a responsible PERSON. That way, it doesn't matter how you get from A to B.
Jones replying to a comment from Tony / May 21, 2014 at 11:25 am
Ok I'll now refer to everyone as simply Taxpayers.
ge replying to a comment from km / May 21, 2014 at 11:26 am
It can still tell where bike lanes should go by finding inefficiencies in your route. If it sees there is a more optimal route and you didn't take it, maybe there needs to be a bike lane there. Other people also don't weigh the risks the same way you do, it's not rather useless, but rather useful.
Jokes replying to a comment from Sean / May 21, 2014 at 11:31 am
Sean you have to be kidding right? A cyclist is paying for the roads you drive on, a bike causes less than 1% of the wear and tear on a road than a car, yet they pay the same municipal taxes that a car does to build roads.
Tony replying to a comment from Jokes / May 21, 2014 at 11:57 am
Not only that, all the DRIVING insurance claims from all of the DRIVING accidents that occur everyday cause insurance rates to rise for EVERYBODY and everything!!!

There is no other way to look at it -- If you once drove, but now ride, you are less of a burden to everybody!!!

trying to make riding your bike seem like a bigger burden to society/taxpayers than driving your car is ridiculous.
E. Toby Coke replying to a comment from Jokes / May 21, 2014 at 12:14 pm
"...a bike causes less than 1% of the wear and tear on a road than a car..."

A very good point. I've often thought that vehicle licensing fees should take curb weight into account, seeing as there's an exponential rise in wear on roads as curb weight goes up.

Make a bike fee nominal -- like $5 a year, and structure the rest of the fees from there.

If drivers want to cry "user pay," let them pay! (I have two cars, by the way)

ROB FORD ON CRACK replying to a comment from Gee / May 21, 2014 at 12:46 pm
Yes I know that Drivers routinely drive 15 to 20% faster than the posted limit. They should be fined, but instead they reduce the speed limit to 30 km and hope it's a deterrent. Cyclists go beyond the posted limit all the time especially couriers. In fact ALL people making a living from cycling should be licensed,those are the ones who routinely blow through stop signs and occasionally kill people.
Aaron / May 21, 2014 at 12:47 pm
You need an app for that?
hamish wilson / May 21, 2014 at 01:00 pm
This really does feel like a waste: there's been 30 years of crash stats that show hazards and where things needs fixing, and all that data doesn't include the hazards of streetcar tracks. So a logical place is thus Bloor St. - oh, there was that 1992 report that had Dan Egan's name on the front cover and it said Bloor/Danforth was #1 for east/west. But gee, only a bit of that made it into the 2001 Bike Plan - that small stretch between Church and Sherbourne, which would cost about $20,000 to repaint the lines, and oh, what a coincidence, that's about the cost of the new app!
While many are sucked into thinking this is going to be soooo great, and will bring us into Nirvanto, they don't want to do the on-road things like Bloor St. W, west of Ossington (where Harbord ends) with that repaving work. Yea! Mike and Anna!!
Donnie / May 21, 2014 at 01:37 pm
ALL THE MONEY ALWAYS GOES BACK TO THE CITY or to the DRIVER through insurance. None goes back to the cyclist.

I once got "doored" riding along Front st. The police came and ticketed the driver. Who do you think got the money from the ticket? Not me, I had to pay for all bandages and ointments myself, but the city made money off the accident.
Jim replying to a comment from Greg / May 21, 2014 at 02:57 pm
Strava isn't free. Strava charges $20,000 to access their data for a limited time and doesn't have any metrics on types of trips. For that same amount the city can own better data and can release it, for free - as part of their open data. From what I'm hearing, the app will be much more than just for tracking trips.
SYSS Mouse replying to a comment from J-Dan / May 21, 2014 at 04:33 pm
Blame the provincial government and not the city. This requires a change to Highway Traffic Act.
Cheryl / May 21, 2014 at 08:12 pm
Someone needs to tell that woman in the photo that her bike doesn't fit. Her seat is too low. she is expending way more energy than she needs to
Chimen / May 22, 2014 at 08:29 am
I wouldn't mind the data on my cycling routes being gathered, but I don't have a smart phone and don't plan on having one. This app would exclude a certain demographic [older/ less affluent] and is therefore discriminatory.
And yes, I agree with all those who already mentioned choosing routes with fewer potholes and heavy car/ truck traffic.
I like the bike lane on Sherbourne and often plan my itinerary to make the best use of this new lane.
skube / May 22, 2014 at 02:59 pm
The app is called "Toronto Cycling" not Toronto Cycles.
hamish wilson / May 22, 2014 at 03:46 pm
This is a good relevant blog post that raises some good flags:
Chad replying to a comment from Chimen / May 23, 2014 at 12:44 am
THIS APP IS discriminatory!!! Those of us that dont have a smartphone or arent that tech savy to connect to a server before and after our ride.
Sarah replying to a comment from Sean / July 8, 2014 at 05:52 pm
Cyclists already pay the same amount for roads that car drivers do, and get much less infrastructure for it. We shouldn't have to pay even more. And in fact we do much less damage to roads and the environment, we cause fewer injuries and fatalities than cars and other vehicles, we are on average healthier we means lower health care costs, and we help reduce congestion, no matter what drivers and pedestrians say about cyclists breaking rules. In fact, drivers and pedestrians break many rules too - that's a human problem, not a cycling one. Oh, and tons of studies show we increase profits for local businesses along cycling routes. So we should be encouraging more cycling, not put more barriers in the way.
JasonL replying to a comment from ROB FORD ON CRACK / October 17, 2014 at 12:48 pm
No, they're not. They only look that way because they're actually going somewhere while you're stuck in traffic.
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