Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.
The most popular bicycle transportation measurement system in the country is hopelessly skewed toward a niche activity.
We refer, of course, to the U.S. Census.
The niche activity: going to work.
Most Americans have jobs, of course. But going to and from work, which is the only bicycle activity the Census measures across the United States, accounts for less than 20 percent of our trips. Huge swaths of the population, including many of those with the most to gain from biking (the old, the young, the broke), don’t have jobs at all.
What’s more, our commutes tend to be the longest trips we take on a regular basis, which puts bicycling out of reach for millions of Americans. Census statistics provide a useful clue about which cities are doing biking right, but a flawed one — especially for the less intensely motivated bike users that U.S. cities have been redesigning their streets to serve.
A 10-month-old computer chip for the Apple iPhone may already be creating a better alternative.
The M7, a chip introduced last year that lets users gather data about their movements even while their smartphones are asleep, is the hardware behind Human, an activity-tracking mobile app that made a splash this month by using its users’ movement speed to create maps of walking, biking, running and motor vehicle transport in 30 cities around the world.