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Researchers at the University of Calgary are recruiting 10,000 local cyclists for a massive study

The data from your Garmin could help reshape the city's cycling network

Photo by: Jayka Herrera/Unsplash

The Wearable Technology Research and Collaboration (We-TRAC) training program at the University of Calgary has launched a large-scale study using data from Calgarian cyclists’ Garmins and Fitbits. Volunteer’s data will be analyzed to figure out what routes cyclists take (specifically in the downtown area) and their stress and heart rate levels.

The project hopes to gain insight into the layout and connectivity of the city’s street and cycling networks and will also look at the various other ways people move around the city.

Big data

Dr. Reed Ferber, a kinesiology professor at the U of C and leader of the project, says that the research will cover both qualitative and quantitative data on the behaviour of cyclists in the city.

“We’re looking at data such as not only location but how fast they’re cycling, how many times they have to stop, what are their stress levels, their heart rate, their heart rate irritability on specific pathways — either shared pathways or unshared pathways,” he said to the Calgary Herald. “The research that’s been done on this is very limited . . . what we’re gathering is historical data for the past two years and then data moving forward.”

Citizen scientists

The group hopes to get 10,000 volunteer Calgarian cyclists on board for the years-long study. Signing up is straightforward, participants simply allow We-TRAC to access their Garmin or Fitbit account.

“This is a very unique, first-of-its-kind-in-the-world approach to using wearable technology to help build our city streets a little safer [and] help us spend tax dollars in a more effective way based on evidence,” says Dr. Ferber.

Calgary has been slowly growing its cycling network—recently the city installed 1.5 kilometres of protected cycle track, brining the total to nine kilometres. The results of the We-TRAC study will help urban planners and developers better understand how people move in the city and where future bike lanes and cycle tracks should be installed.