Cycling app to use crowd-sourced data to help with bike-friendly city planning


An app for cyclists is to ask them to submit feedback on infrastructure which could be used by town planners to improve routes in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

See.Sense, which makes artificial intelligence-powered bike lights that monitor bike rides and showcase data about user riding habits, is now lending its technology to support the response to Covid-19 and social-distancing measures.

The firm’s free app is adding a feature called Infrastructure Request which will allow cyclists to give insights into how they think routes they cycle could be improved, such as adding more space and separation to cycle lanes, more bike parking and improvements to traffic signal timing to reduce queuing.

Lockdown and the introduction of social-distancing rules have seen an increase in cycling and cycle-to-work schemes, according to recent figures, while the Government also announced a £2 billion plan to improve infrastructure for cycling and walking last month.

The new feature is being built on an existing ride survey tool which allows cyclists to participate in specific local authority projects by reporting issues such as potholes, near-miss incidents, collisions and obstructions.

Soon, users who opt-in to data sharing will be able to drop pins onto their cycle route in the app once they finish a ride and add text commentary, with all anonymised data and feedback collected then visible on the See.Sense website, which could be used by local authorities in infrastructure planning.

See.Sense co-founder Irene McAleese, who started the firm with her husband Philip, said the app’s new request feature and the data gathered from it could help planning for the changes sparked by the pandemic.

“This is a great opportunity for the thriving cycling community in the UK to come together and help make our cities safer, cleaner and more enjoyable places to cycle and walk. That’s why our app is free to everybody who wants to contribute to this effort,” she said.

“We understand that city planners and local authorities need robust evidence and a data-led approach when applying to receive additional Government funding for cycling infrastructure in their local area. Previously, that data might have been incomplete or anecdotal because there was no established way of gathering cyclist data.

“We want to use our technology to make a positive impact, especially in response to Covid-19, which is why all planners and local authorities will be able to request free reports for their area simply by registering online throughout the summer.”

The firm has already carried out trials of infrastructure reports in several towns and cities, including Dublin and Manchester and has several more currently ongoing.

Mrs McAleese said their tests so far had shown “cyclists are definitely very willing” to share data and are “really motivated to see changes happen”.

The company’s app is built on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which the co-founders said was vital for processing the amount of data they are gathering.

The company has currently processed 32 billion pieces of data just from readings gathered from its smart bike lights.

“It is a phenomenal set of tools that allow you to do things that I only would have ever dreamt about when I was looking after IT for investment banks – which is what I used to do in my career,” Mr McAleese said.

Mrs McAleese added: “It’s been really important to have this sort of data infrastructure to help us handle the large volumes of data – to be able to store it and manage it and build a ‘data lake’ that we can build on for scale as we grow.”

AWS senior developer advocate for the UK and Ireland, Steven Bryen, said: “The See.Sense team was able to build the new app feature in less than two days because the data lake was built on AWS.

“Using AWS, See.Sense was able to create a data lake with the ability to handle new and unstructured data types.”

See.Sense says it hopes to begin rolling out the new feature in the “coming days”.