35% increase in people cycling in Cork in 2020, Strava data shows

An increase of 35% in the number of people cycling in Cork has happened in the last year according to data released by Cork Cycling Campaign with help from Strava, the exercise tracking company.

The Cork Cycling Campaign said it is also continuing research into local cycling through their annual cycling survey for Cork residents who cycle and have “received hundreds of responses to date”.​

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The Cork Cycling Campaign said that it worked with Strava Metro, which provides data free to local authorities and transport authorities, to extract the data for the Cork area.

The main findings are that there was a 35% increase in cycling in 2020 compared to 2018/19, that the numbers increased across all ages, and there was a doubling of the number of children and teenagers cycling. The data showed that cycling over the winter months almost doubled compared to 2018/19 levels and there was also a strong growth in the number of people walking.

The campaign said that Strava Metro data also showed the major cycling routes around the city and that the majority of people cycling in Cork favoured direct over indirect routes.

Brian Murphy, a spokesperson for the Cork Cycling Campaign, said: “The data clearly confirms the impression that many more people are cycling this year. With the city council rolling out protected cycle lanes, we expect to see even more people cycling to work and school in the near future.”

However, there are limitations to applying Strava data to urban transport cycling. The authors of a research paper covering Strava data, which was published last year, said: “Sample of Strava cyclists is small compared to the population of cyclists: they are liable to represent more active cyclists than the average urban cyclist; and the demographic will have a heavy age and gender bias with fewer females using the Strava app.”

On its website, Strava said: “As with any mobility data source, Metro data does not cover the entire population. However, since we launched the service in 2014 we have worked extensively with partners and research institutions on ways to use and adjust Metro data to create a representative sample that enables powerful analyses of the overall population.”

The company also said: “Several independent academic studies have analyzed the relationship between Metro data and data recorded by electronic or human bike counters and found robust correlations between the two. This shows that Strava members’ travel patterns are representative of the overall population.”

Strava made access to its data free last September, but said it will “only work with organizations that plan, own or maintain infrastructure or seek to positively influence planning processes.” It said it is compliant with EU data protection rules.

The Cork Cycling Campaign also said that much of this year’s exceptional growth was likely in response to public health advice from the government and the WHO to walk and cycle wherever possible. The campaigners also said that there was anecdotal evidence of strong growth elsewhere in Ireland, especially in cycling to school.”

A statement from the group said: “Cork Cycling Campaign planned to continue analysing the mobility data into the future, especially on routes like Centre Park Road which have been recently introduced by the Council. The Campaign welcomed the city council’s work in protecting cycle lanes, and noted that it would make cycling to work and school attractive for much greater numbers of people. The group expects further strong growth in the number of people cycling in 2021 and will be examining the dataset for evidence of the impact of the new Council infrastructure.”

The group added: “The Campaign expressed their appreciation to Stava Metro for access to their data. This report includes aggregated and de-identified data from Strava Metro. The Campaign also called on the council to install cyclist and pedestrian counters along key routes into the city to produce independent data on active travel on city commuting routes. Such data are an essential part of smart city transport management.”

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