Queensland, Australia Case Study

Feb 13, 2017•Case Study

This story originally appeared as a case study on the Strava Metro website.

BACKGROUND

Queensland, Australia is a global leader in sustainable transportation, both in its commitment to building safe, direct, and connected bicycling routes, and in its use of smart data to help plan, build, and analyze cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Queensland’s efforts in this area go back a long time, but since 2003 alone it has dedicated more than $1 billion to build hundreds of kilometers of bicycle networks. This work is outlined in its comprehensive cycling strategy for 2011–2021, and supports the broader governmental goals of cutting Queensland households’ carbon emissions by one-third by 2020, and reducing Queenslanders’ obesity levels.

There are numerous ways to encourage cycling for commuting and recreation. The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) believes the most powerful method is to simply build better infrastructure and create an environment where people feel safe and comfortable on their bicycle. To facilitate that development, TMR uses many kinds of data, from statewide participation and travel surveys to traffic counts on bikeways. In 2014, Queensland began working with Strava Metro to capture street-level bicycle usage and gain insights on a range of questions about bicyclist behavior, including preferred routes, peak days and times, average speeds, and gaps in the bicycle network.

OBJECTIVES

As the organization responsible for implementing a key part of Queensland’s cycle strategy, TMR must advocate for bicycling infrastructure and prove that new infrastructure is being adopted by cyclists. Strava Metro has become an important tool for both jobs. Prior to building a bikeway, TMR’s transportation planners analyze the Metro data for bicycle usage on unsafe roads; they then use that evidence to make the case for cycling-specific infrastructure. After a new bikeway has been built, TMR examines its usage to make sure the bikeway is serving the needs of cyclists.

This strategy became especially useful in the aftermath of the 2011 floods, which washed away the New Farm Riverwalk, a floating bikeway and walkway in the middle of the Brisbane River. The 850-meter Riverwalk connected the neighborhoods of New 1 Farm and Merthyr to downtown Brisbane and the Bicentennial Bikeway, and was a safe and popular route, seeing more than 3,000 cyclists, runners, and pedestrians every day. After a three year hiatus, the Riverwalk was rebuilt on solid ground, reopening in September of 2014. The question was: how would its reappearance impact bicycle usage and traffic patterns?

OUTCOMES

The timing of the Riverwalk’s re-opening proved advantageous because TMR planners could use Metro data to compare bicyclist patterns before and after the new path was built — a “delta analysis.”

The differences between the two Metro data visuals were rather dramatic. Before the Riverwalk was re-built, bicyclists were diverted onto a busy street or into the hilly Fortitude Valley to get to the core business district. After the Riverwalk re-opened, cyclists’ usage of the surrounding streets decreased and there was a significant increase in cycling levels in the New Farm area on the safer route. A damaged link in Brisbane’s bicycle network had been fixed, and the Metro data showed just how much local residents were glad to have it back.

Proving this change in bicycling activity was important to TMR for two reasons: it showed the value of this particular investment and it confirmed what many bicycle advocates believe about dedicated infrastructure: If you build it, they will come.

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