A goal of transportation planning is to cost effectively improve mobility, sustainability and quality of life. One simple way to do this is to increase the amount of people cycling. Bicycles reduce traffic, lower carbon emissions and provide efficient transportation. They improve people’s health and connect them more to their environment. Unsurprisingly, growing evidence suggests that bicycle friendly built environments and cycling infrastructure increase rates of cycling. It also reduces costly infrastructure expansion and increases the health of the community, both personally and environmentally.
Fine grained spatial data can help meet the goals of transportation planning by expanding the understanding of how features of the natural and built environment act as barriers or facilitators to active transportation. Bikeability is an empirical measure used to assess how bike friendly urban or natural environments are. While both AURIN and Australia have Walkability tools, which support urban research and practice, there aren’t the same accessible and objective bikeability measures for Australian cities.
“Many people, even those sympathetic to cycling, dismiss cycling as a transportation mode. We believe cycling should be viewed as an integrated part of a multi-modal transport framework that can help us meet transport planners’ goals,” says Dr Scott Lieske from University of Queensland.
Lieske and his team are conducting research that will inform the Bikeability Assessment Tool, as part of the High Impact Projects program funded by AURIN. The Bikeability project will develop an automated tool, which will allow AURIN users to evaluate bikeability on user-specified routes or areas across Australia.
A number of factors are considered when assessing bikeability:
- Availability and quality of bicycle paths, lanes and other infrastructure
- Bicycle network and street connectivity
- Traffic volumes and speed
- Number of through lanes
- Traffic control signs and signals
- Bicyclist safety
- Comfort and convenience
- Access to important destinations
- Aesthetics, green space and water
- Environmental factors
- Street scale design variables such as lane, shoulder and bicycle width, on-street parking, presence of curb, pavement condition
The Bikeability Assessment Tool will include much of this data—as it is available—which will be tested and integrated at a national scale, making it Australia’s first ever multi-city and multi-scale assessment of factors conducive to bicycling. This fills an important gap in AURIN’s urban infrastructure data and will allow the AURIN community to assess and monitor planning, design, infrastructure and policy interventions over time. Combined with our existing Walkability tool, objective and accessible bikeability measures will support multi-modal transportation planning with a focus on active transportation.
Some of the data inputs will be time-stamped, which will build a national longitudinal dataset available for analysing changes over time. This project will both demonstrate the value of crowdsourced mobility data for Australian cities alongside showcasing to commercial providers how their data might, initially, be served and protected in the AURIN platform. It is an important first step in the long-term process of ensuring current and longitudinal crowdsourced urban mobility data is available to Australian researchers and practitioners.
Once the tool is complete it will be capable of creating spatial datasets of bikeability indices, both for user-specified routes and spatially explicit area-based scales for cities across Australia.
The Bikeability Assessment Tool is an AURIN High Impact Project (HIP). Through the HIP program, AURIN engages with Australian urban, regional and social planning communities—including researchers, planners and policy makers from academic, government, NGO/NFP and private sector organisations—through collaboration and co-investment in high-quality, high-priority, high impact projects.
The Bikeability Assessment Tool will deliver new datasets, tools, and services as well as demonstrate the value and potential of its use within the AURIN platform. The tool and associated data will assist future research on design characteristics associated with cycles—for transport, recreation and tourism—and will help identify populations both well and underserved with active transportation options. Through this we can improve our understanding of how to improve bikeability in both the urban and natural environments.