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SF using technology to track bicyclists

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Local,Science and Technology,Will Reisman

With a little help from its ever-growing cycling population, tracking the travel routes of San Francisco’s bikers is becoming more of a perfect science.

Data from a new smart phone application that details when, where, and how often city residents use their bikes is now being processed by city officials, who use the information to plan and predict travel patterns for San Francisco cyclists.

CycleTracks, an application available on both Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android devices, allows its users to record starting and ending points for their planned bike activities. Using GPS technology, CycleTracks stores the data on the route, date and time of the bicycle trip. The technology also sorts each trip into personal, commuting, exercise or other categories.

After the end of each excursion, the data is sent to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (TA), a local transportation planning agency. The TA compiles the data and plugs it into its Chained Activity Modeling Process (CHAMP), a data-collection center that predicts future travel patterns for cyclists in the Bay Area. The new information will allow city planners to get a better understanding about how to support San Francisco’s bicyclists.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said CycleTracks would be a vital asset for The City.

“San Francisco has really been lacking in data to help plan for a better bicycling network,” Shahum said. “CycleTracks is a really smart and creative way to gather good data.”

Shahum said she didn’t know how many members of the 11,000-strong bike coalition have signed up for the application, but she affirmed that the program is starting to gain notice in The City’s bicycling community.

The technology should soon pick up on plenty of new routes, as an injunction against The City’s Bike Plan — a comprehensive project outlining 45 miles of additional bike lanes in San Francisco — was partially lifted in November after three years.

Even with the injunction, the number of cyclists in The City has increased by 53 percent since 2006, according to information gathered by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Information about how to download the CycleTracks application can be found on the TA’s Web site, www.sfcta.com. While CycleTracks gathers data from each user’s unique phone identification number, no other personal information is collected without further permission. The application is partially funded by grants from the California Department of Transportation.

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