App aimed at making Twin Cities more bike friendly

bikeapp.jpgThere are apps about angry fowl. There are apps that make smartphone photos look like they were taken during Nixon’s presidency. Now, the Metropolitan Council has an app called CycleTracks that’s designed to help make the Twin Cities more bike friendly.

It’s available for free for both iPhone and Android phones.

Here’s how it works. Bicyclists turn the app on before starting a ride. The GPS on the phone tracks the biker through the twists and turns of their route. At the end of the ride, the biker gets data on how fast they rode, and the Met Council gets detailed information on the biker’s route.

Met Council senior transit planner David Vessel said the app will help planners identify obstacles to better bike commutes.

“These are actual trips that people are taking,” Vessel said. “It significantly improves the way that we can plan for cyclists.”

The image at the top of this post is from my commute to work last week. One might assume that taking the Midtown Greenway would be the best route from my house in south Minneapolis to MPR in downtown St. Paul. But I’ve found that taking 32nd Street to the Mississippi River is faster, safer and more direct. That’s the sort of information that transportation planners want to dig into.

“Up until this point, there’s really been no tool for planners to actually see the routes that cyclists take when they’re going to and from work,” Vessel said. “The more we know about the real routes that bicyclists are taking, the better we’ll be able to serve them.”

The app was originally developed by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. That agency made it available to others around the country. The Met Council paid about $250 to rework the app for the Twin Cities.

Riders can also attach detailed notes about each ride. Those notes are partly intended to let transit planners know about barriers to faster commutes. But riders can also use the notes to keep track of their progress. Or in my case, for attaching excuses about why I was so slow: I stopped by a bike shop.