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Strava to be used for urban planning in Ottawa and Gatineau

The cities of Ottawa and Gatineau have signed agreements with Strava to gain access to mapping data to help make more informed infrastructure decisions.

The cities of Ottawa and Gatineau have agreed to a contract with Strava to purchase the companies data to make better-informed infrastructure decisions. CBC is reporting that Ottawa and Gatineau have signed agreements for two years worth of Strava Metro data.

The movements of the BikeOttawa group within Strava over the period of March 22, 2016 until April 21, 2016. Photo credit: Citizens for Safe Cycling
The movements of the BikeOttawa group within Strava. Photo credit: Citizens for Safe Cycling


The popular fitness app allows users to collect, record and analyse GPS data collected through the use of fitness devices (such as Garmin and Polar) and smartphones. Strava Metro take activity data collected from Strava users within a region, make it anonymous and then that data can be used to see where, when and how people are moving around the cities. Each trip mapped in Strava can add to the database and help the cities make infrastructure decisions that make sense. Strava has allowed users of the popular app to view popular routes using the Strava Global Heat Map but specific date on the trips is not made available.

Cycling advocacy groups such as Citizens for Safe Cycling are urging users to map their trips in Strava to add to the database and help the city make more informed decisions. Each trip can now act as a sort of digital vote that leaves a lasting footprint on the maps that will help infrastructure planners make decisions about how and where cities can work at improving their cycling paths.

Strava Global Heatmap
Strava Global Heatmap


Citizens for Safe Cycling say that data from Strava can be used to understand how bike traffic flows at different hours of the day, week or year, which streets get heavier traffic and should be prioritised in developing bike paths, and which streets cyclists are avoiding. It can help planners understand how far people travel to go around natural obstacles such as rivers or man-made ones such as highways.

The highly athletic nature of the typical Strava user may be a weakness of the approach because most trips worth Strava-ing do not accurately represent the daily short commutes people typically make by bike. Citizens for Safe Cycling are urging regular people to sign up for Strava and record their mundane, everyday commutes to the grocery store, to work or to the park.

Strava Metro is a database of all the GPS-activities people log in metro areas around the world. When this data is aggregated it can be used to analyse and understand people’s route preferences. The goal is to help cities make informed and effective decisions when building, maintaining or upgrading cycling corridors. Advocacy groups are also given access to the data to perform their own analysis.

In order to start logging your commutes on Strava, you first need a GPS device such as a smartphones or fitness specific devices with GPS. Sign up and make a free Strava profile at strava.com and finally start logging your trips. You can identify which of your entries are training specific and which ones are commutes when uploading data. Every ride collected through 2016 will be in the database the cities will have access too.