Netherlands is a cycling country. Every morning rush-hour sees more than 1.75 million Dutch on their bikes. Of all commuters, 25% are cyclists and 40% of train travellers make their way to a train station by bike. In order to ensure all this movement takes place safely and comfortably there is a nationwide network of 35,000 kilometres of cycle paths.
The city of Delft is a cycling town par excellence with an intricate infrastructure of bicycle paths and bicycle lanes.
Measuring bicycling traffic
There is little information on the actual use of existing cycling infrastructure. Road traffic is measured, through sensors in road surfaces, and this data is used to control traffic flows through traffic lights. Bicycle paths though do not have such sensors, and installing them would be costly. To date, what we know about cycle traffic is the result of manual tallies supplemented by surveys among cyclists. As a result, matching demand (number of cyclists and routes) and supply (infrastructure) is tricky.
In addition to determining traffic volume, actual movement/flows are also interesting. At the moment, travel times and routes used by cyclists can be measured only by cyclists themselves. With each ride an app on their mobile phone needs to be activated which then regularly registers their position.
Policymakers however, have many questions. Among them:
• How many cyclists use the bike paths?
• Which routes are used?
• What are the travel times and speeds of cyclists? And how do these differ between cyclists, or the time of day?
Two Delft companies are developing a system, using different, inexpensive data collection techniques, to identify bicycle movements.
New technologies now make it possible to measure bicycle traffic efficiently and inexpensively. For example, use is made of low power radar for detecting and counting cyclists, which detects all passing motorbikes and bicycles. Another technique used is WiFi sniffing. Signals are picked up from passing devices communicating via Wi-Fi, such as smartphones.
By combining and extrapolating upon the data gathered, a review can be made of different bicycle infrastructures at any given time. Furthermore, such systems are in keeping with the Dutch privacy legislation.
Living lab in Delft
The city of Delft is serving as a testing ground for the Delft initiative CycloSense. In up to five locations in and around the city, along paths and on existing masts, CycloSense systems will be placed. For 6 months data will be gathered and collated.
The objective of this pilot project is twofold:
• Testing of the CycloSense measuring units in practice. Does it deliver reliable information?
• Investigating whether the measured results give a good picture of the actual use of the bicycle infrastructure in Delft, allowing for future investment and policy related decisions by the city to be made according to demand.