Metro data correlates strongly with Census commuting survey, says CDC

Rodrigo Davies
May 29, 2019 · 2 min read

Research from the Centers for Disease Control shows that Strava Metro data closely resembles Census data about biking and walking activity by the general public. Forget the weekend warrior stereotype — when you license our data, you’re getting information that reflects broad-based active commuting patterns, according to the CDC.

The proof is in the strong correlation between the location of people who use our app to track their commutes and the location of bike and walk commuters in the overall population.

CDC researchers Geoffrey Whitfield, Emily Ussery and Arthur Wendel looked at whether our user-generated commute data is representative of the public at large by comparing it to Census data from four cities: Austin, Denver, Nashville, and San Francisco. They found a consistent link between the number of Strava commuters in a Census block group and the number of bike and walk commuters counted by the Census’s American Community Survey (ACS) in the same block group.

The CDC team compared commuters who use Strava to ACS tallies of bike and walk commuters in 2,049 Census block groups (each covering an area with an average of about 1,250 residents) across the four cities. They observed a significant correlation and concluded that Strava and the ACS “rank block groups similarly regarding the presence of active transportation.”

In other words, the rate of active commuting in a given area of a city according to the Census is similar to the rate of active commuting in the same area among Strava users.

The correlation between the Census and Strava data was stronger than previously observed correlations between travel surveys and other crowdsourced, GPS-based activity trackers, like accelerometers, according to the CDC. The link was especially strong in areas with higher population densities.

Additional studies have reached this conclusion about Metro data’s relationship to government surveys, along with work by researchers at Arizona State University and Texas Transportation Institute.

There is one way in which our data differs from the Census: You won’t have to wait a year or more for a fresh batch. Our trip data is available almost in real-time, so you’ll always have access to the most current information.

With our large user base, Strava Metro can provide “critical information” about where and when people bike and walk, says the CDC, and “inform investments in active transportation programs and infrastructure.”

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