Small Button, Big Data
PING if you care! Simone Feigl discusses cyclists contributing to a better traffic infrastructure in cities
In 2017 Mobiel 21, the Flemish organisation for sustainable mobility, launched the PING if you care! pilot campaign in Brussels, together Bike Citizens. In early 2018 the evaluation of the Brussels PING if you care! campaign was accomplished by using the Bike Citizens analytics tool and analysing results from surveying and the overall campaign. The PING if you care! campaign, financed by the Cabinet Debaets, regional government of Brussels, allows people to actively engage in the development of their city. With the PING button, participants can mark situations and spots which they perceive as unsafe or where they feel a conflict. By doing so, they create a clear image of the traffic situation for cyclists.
The PING button (figure 1) is around four centimetres in width and can be attached to the handlebar or clothing. The button communicates with the Bike Citizens app via Bluetooth. Participants of the PING if you care! campaign can ‘ping’ (ie, activating the PING button) bottlenecks in traffic, which will then be automatically marked on a map in the app and on the campaign website using GPS technology. Communication with the target group is key.
A short introduction explains to participants in which situations it is useful to ‘ping’. For instance, potholes in the road or a traffic sign hidden behind branches. Besides responses on infrastructural defects, people also collect data about traffic situations, which are not covered in other statistics, like for example ignoring priority in traffic. Results show that emotional conflicts and conflicts with other road users are often pinged. The PING button allows cyclists to mark how many times a car is parked on the cycle lane or how many times they have been “doored” on their route. Cyclists can categorise and comment on their PINGs straight away or at home. To guarantee high representation of the results, the participants of the campaign were chosen considering different factors: residence, age, sex and cycling experience.
Important in this campaign is the communication and engagement with the target group. Mobiel 21 started the campaign with a successful event in the heart of the city. Dedicated newsletters, a 24-hour helpdesk and lively Facebook community supported the creation of a highly motivated group of ‘pingers’. Communication and sharing ideas and news was needed in order to keep participants using the PING button during the eight-month campaign period.
PING heatmap – cycled tracks and pinged spots
The heatmap (figure 2) visualises cycled tracks as well as ‘pinged’ places in the city. The brightness and concentration of the lines show where the most people have cycled. The bigger the circle, the more PINGs have been marked on this location.
The heatmap provides first insights as to where improvements for cyclists will be effective. In Brussels in 2017, cyclists ‘pinged’ more than 36.000 times. The PINGs are correlated with the uploaded tracks, comments and the other cycling data using the Bike Citizens Analytics GPS data analysis tool. After the analysis of the data gathered during the pilot campaign the interpretation of the pinged places, clear recommendations will be sent to the regional government of Brussels, Cabinet Debaets. This will ensure that all the contributions of participants will be taken into consideration. Which means that they will not be drifting around on one of numerous online platforms gathering user feedback on streets.
Elke Franchois, Evelien Bossuyt from Mobiel 21 and Adi Hirzer, Bike Citizens’ international market development manager, is currently working on the data analysis of PING if you care! and Herzer out: “PING if you care! allows for improvements on different levels. It is mainly about investigating the best approaches and utilising given budget resources wisely.” He also permits a first insight in the results:
The comparison of PINGs and GPS routes lets draw conclusions on the significance of the PINGs. Figure 3 shows an example: A segment of the Antwersesteenweg, Brussels, catches someones eye because of a high amount of PINGs of the category ‘parking on the bike lane’ (left screen). The detailed analysis of the cycle data shows a morning peak and a slightly lower peak in the afternoon (right screen). This indicates that the segment of the route is mainly used by commuters and school pupils. Tightened control by parking officers could bring a fast and cheap improvement of the situation.
Additional observations showed that the ‘pinging’ behaviour of the participants differs. It is necessary to put the PINGs into the right context or to clear double PINGs of the same participants (a feature that is integrated in the tool).
PINGs that are referring to interpersonal conflicts have to be analysed differently to PINGs treating infrastructural issues. Interpersonal conflicts are often singular incidents, just affecting the involved people, but still can point out solutions that can be managed locally. Contrary to that, the accumulation of a certain conflict all over the city could be solved by accomplishing an information campaign.
How PING if you care! contributes to an improvement of people’s health
PING if you care! does not only help cities to understand the actual traffic situation and to provide better infrastructure for all traffic participants, it also engages the people, both in providing a better infrastructure and giving traffic participants a voice. This helps them to contribute to a more bicycle-friendly city and steadily improves the conditions for cycling in cities. Thus, people tend to cycle more often, they feel more appreciated on their bikes and benefit from a better traffic infrastructure.
More people on bikes in cities can bring about several positive effects, not only for cyclists themselves, but for all residents.
Better health due to better fitnessDue to daily exercise on the bike people get fitter and healthier. As a study of the Austrian Mobility Research shows, about a quarter of the people tested who used the bike for 12 weeks, could improve their fitness and reduce their body fat values.1 Also, cyclists have a lower sickness absence rate than users of other transport modes (7.4 days compared to 8.7 days), as a study in the Netherlands showed.2
Better health due to less emissionsBecause bicycles produce much less emissions than most other modes of transport, cyclists contribute to a better air quality. Cities with better air quality count less lung diseases amongst their inhabitants. VCÖ monetised the advantage for the health system: better air quality can save cities between €210 and €478 per person per year.3 Also, cycling emits less noise, which can prevent the onset of noise-related psychological issues.
The higher the modal share of cycling the lower the ratio of injured cyclists
In an 18 year period cycled kilometers more then doubled in Austria (from 1995 to 2013) whereas the amount of traffic accidents with injured cyclists only rose by 20 per cent4.
Also, a research project from UCL (University College London) showed, hat cycling is safer than driving for young males (17 to 20 years old). Male car drivers face almost five times greater risk for fatal injuries than cyclists at that age.5
Considering the wide range of benefits of cycling for people and cities it is highly recommended to make cities more bicycle friendly. PING if you care! is a suitable campaign to start this process towards a bicycle-friendly environment and thus, cities with bigger quality of life.
Free demo version of Bike Citizens Analytics available
A 30-day demo version of Bike Citizens Analytics is available for cities, urban planners and traffic planners. Please send your request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PING if you care! in other cities
The PING if you care! campaign can easily be adapted to other cities. It is not only about negative emotions: Also positive situations can be ‘pinged’ to provide a big picture of the traffic situation. summary of the results will be made available from April on at www.pingifyoucare.eu
If you are interested in conducting a campaign, please send a request to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bike Citizens
Bike Citizens was founded 2011 in Graz by former bike messengers Daniel Kofler and Andreas Stückl and is located in Graz (Austria) and Berlin (Germany). The aim of Bike Citizens is to make urban cycling more attractive in order to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life in cities. To reach this goal, Bike Citizens develops products that offer urban cyclists a platform for information and exchange. Together with cities, companies and organisations, Bike Citizens works on solutions that provide navigation, promotion and analysis for bicycle traffic.
About Mobiel 21 T
The social profit organisation Mobiel 21 stands for sustainable mobility in Flanders, Belgium and Europe. For Mobiel 21, sustainable mobility means a balance between social, ecological, economic and health aspects. Its mission is to create an environment that is accessible in an environmentally friendly and safe way. Mobiel 21 was founded in 1982 and works with governments, stakeholders and companies.
Simone Feigl is Head of Communications at Bike Citizens
Elke Bossaert (Mobiel 21) and Adi Hirzer (Bike Citizens) are driving forces behind PING if you care!