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Better bicycle planning for Portland

The mobile app uses machine learning and low power sensors to automatically track users’ bike rides

Ride Report helps rider track their ride and provides PBOT with invaluable information
Ride Report helps rider track their ride and provides PBOT with invaluable information

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) in Oregon in the US has teamed with local technology start-up, Ride Report, to collect data that is helping it to make better planning decisions regarding cycling in the city.


The mobile app measures bicycle traffic and gathers public input about the experience of riding a bicycle on hundreds of city streets, across all of Portland. It uses machine learning and low-power sensors to automatically track users’ bike rides.


Ride Report, which works with more than a dozen city governments around the world, was co-founded by Portlanders William Henderson and Evan Heidtmann, and the app is designed to helps users track their exercise goals and statistics, and encourages them with fun virtual challenges and trophies. At the end of each ride, Ride Report allows users to rate their experience by how comfortable they felt on the trip.


Portland cyclists have logged more trips on the Ride Report app than riders in any other US city. Since the app’s launch in 2016, Portland riders have logged over 400,000 bike trips covering more than 1.2 million miles -- enough to go around the earth nearly 50 times.


“This partnership is a win-win. Ride Report is a great tool to help people track their rides and it gives us great information about where people like to ride,” said transportation director Leah Treat.


“We’re excited to use this tool to help inform bureau decisions to make Portland an even greater biking city. I hope more people choose to use this locally-made app to track their bike rides so we can benefit from predictive analytics in shaping future routes."


Portland was one of the first cities to use this anonymised data in the planning and evaluation of transportation projects, such as the seasonal Better Naito project, which provided a protected space for pedestrians and cyclists travelling along Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park during the summer season.


Co-founder William Henderson said Portland made him fall in love with biking and that he always felt grateful to city’s people who helped him learn the best routes.


“I’m an engineer, and so, of course, I’ve always wondered: could I use technology to help more people have that experience?" he said. "Ride Report was created to enhance opportunities for people of all levels of experience and backgrounds to enjoy biking and be part of a larger biking community just by downloading an app.


"By providing tools and data to cities, people’s participation is further enhanced through safer and more comfortable biking infrastructure.” 


The Ride Report data is the latest addition to PBOT’s robust data collection efforts, including an annual bike count conducted by trained volunteers to count bike travellers at over 280 locations across the city.


In Northwest Portland and the Central Eastside Parking Districts, PBOT is already partnering with local coffee shops to provide incentives for those who download the app and bike. Meanwhile, those participating in the Bike More Challenge in May can log their rides automatically by connecting the app to their rider profile.


PBOT said users should keep an eye out for fun “Only in PDX” trophies as they ride around the city, including the Civic Duty Bonus for biking to City Hall or the Breakfast on the Bridges bonus for biking to the monthly event.


If you like this, you might be interested in reading the following:


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Important bicycle traffic data can be analysed and evaluated using Bike Citizens’ analytics

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First global bike-share data feed launched

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