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PSU researchers: ‘Data fusion’ can help cities count bikes better

PSU researchers: ‘Data fusion’ can help cities count bikes better

Back when the Hawthorne Bridge bike tracker was in a better state. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland) It’s always fun to see the Tilikum Crossing bike counter…

Saturday, Aug 06

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Back when the Hawthorne Bridge bike tracker was in a better state. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland) It’s always fun to see the Tilikum Crossing bike counter tick up as you pedal across the bridge, checking out how many other people have biked on the same route that day. But bike counters are an important tool beyond just novelty. People working to plan bike infrastructure projects – and acquire government funding and political support for them – need to know how many people are biking and where they’re going. In order to do that, they need to make sure they’re getting the most accurate count possible.

There are many tools to count bike trips; but each of them has its drawbacks. Ones that use smartphone data from apps only capture people who use them (and that have phones). Bike counters like the one above are expensive and don’t scale ( they are also easy targets for vandals ).

It’s a problem that has plagued cycling advocates for years; but researchers from Portland State University’s Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) think they might have a solution. They call it “data fusion.” A traditional hose counter. A project team led by Dr. Sirisha Kothuri wanted to find out what happens when data from different tools are mixed. Their work was based on the idea that a more accurate picture of cycling traffic can be made by combining, “traditional and emerging data sources.”

The team looked at three newer “big data” sources — the Strava smartphone […]

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