blog | 08.02.2018 | Luke Phillips

Analysing the potential for more cycling in Scotland

The benefits of cycling as a mode of transport are well documented – including saving money, improving health, and a cleaner environment for all. Last year we challenged interested parties to use the Strava Metro app data we provide to make tools to encourage more cycling. We then hosted an Active Travel Data Demo Day in November to show off the challenge finalists' entries, alongside a range of other interesting active travel data developments. Luke Phillips, Monitoring & Development Officer at Cycling Scotland, presented on one of those interesting developments – the Cycling Potential Tool (CPT). In this blog, Luke provides a more in-depth look at the tool and explains how it is helping to inform decision-making on local cycling infrastructure investment.

Cycling Scotland has been developing its Cycling Potential Tool (CPT) since 2013 in order to provide an evidence base to inform decision-making about which areas throughout Scotland may gain the largest impact from investment in cycling infrastructure at a local level. This GIS-based toolset produces a large range of information for partners with the aim of helping them bring in that further investment.

Piloting the Cycling Potential Tool

Taking inspiration from Transport for London’s 2010 report Analysis of Cycling Potential (PDF 2.33MB), Cycling Scotland originally developed a spreadsheet-based tool that looked at the environmental factors within an area - such as hilliness, road speed and distances from school and work. By adding in custom datazones that amalgamated multiple sets of data, it was possible to have the tool work not only for larger conurbations but across much smaller settlements – essential for analysing the wide range of Scotland’s geography and urban/rural areas. This version of the tool was piloted in Clackmannanshire throughout 2014.

Following the pilot with Clackmannanshire, a clear development of the tool was to automate the outputs and to ensure a more uniform geography for analysis. Crucial to this was ensuring the continued ability to analyse small settlements robustly. To improve, the CPT was transformed into a custom GIS toolbox-based tool, which would increase the detail and complexity of the work we could produce whilst also adding in other functionalities such as network analysis.

Technical development of the tool

Since early 2016, we have been working with partners on the technical development of the CPT and have developed a range of different modules and outputs, which are detailed below.

The ‘Base Environment’ module of the tool is directly evolved from the original spreadsheet-based pilot and looks at the following datasets within an area of interest:

  • Population Density
  • Hilliness
  • Physical Barriers
  • Access to Services
  • Existing cycling mode share
  • Average travel to work distance
  • Average travel to school distance
  • Road Speed

These datasets are scored and weighted on an absolute methodology to ensure that the tool can be used on settlements of any size throughout Scotland. The tool produces heatmaps for each individual dataset, as well as one for the final combined score, an example of which can be seen in figure 1.

(fig 1: an example output from the ‘Base Environment’ module of CPT)  

The ‘Quality of Service’ (QoS) module examines the network within an area of interest. This includes highlighting which parts of the network are cyclable, as well as scoring each section of road and cycle network on eight different factors:

  • Surface Condition
  • Adjacent Cyclists
  • Comfort Factor
  • Conflict
  • Distance Between Junctions
  • Slope
  • Access to Services
  • Origin/Destination

This module can also be used to examine the difference that new infrastructure, or changes to existing infrastructure, can make on an area by comparing the before and after results (figures 2 and 3).

(fig 2: example of QoS module on an existing network)

(fig 3: example of QoS module on the same network with proposed changes implemented)

Supplementary data for additional evidence

The CPT also brings in a range of informative data that does not influence the cycling potential scoring but provides an additional range of evidence for partners to use. Examples of this include calculating the origin and destination data zones of trips that take place within an area of interest, which can provide data on travel patterns and desire lines. The tool then also plots the route that a person cycling could use if the trip can be made on the cyclable network. Alongside this, Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, socio-demographic data, air quality data, potential cyclist numbers and potential carbon savings data can also be overlaid on mapping.

Realising the potential

The developments made within the tool since we began using a more technical solution have been significant and we are constantly refining and developing CPT further. Cycling Scotland has recently been working with Aberdeenshire Council to produce detailed CPT reports for five of their Integrated Travel Towns. These reports aim to provide evidence for and inform the changes that they wish to make within their respective masterplans.

Going forward, Cycling Scotland is planning similar work with a range of partners and will be continuing to develop the tool further, including converting some of the original aspects of the spreadsheet-based tool (tourism, schools and development modules) into more detailed and complex GIS toolboxes.

Cycling Scotland is always open to working with partners so if you are interested in making use of the tool, please get in touch at monitoring@cycling.scot. 

Luke Phillips

Luke is Monitoring & Development Officer at Cycling Scotland and is responsible for the management, maintenance, analysis and development of data relating to cycling in Scotland, including the Cycling Potential, National Monitoring Framework and Annual Monitoring Report projects.

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    Great to see a tool for helping to prioritise much-needed investment in cycling in Scotland. Another tool that may be of interest is the Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT). An important feature of the PCT is that it is publicly accessible, meaning people can see the results for their local areas - as illustrated here: http://ww.pct.bike/ - is there an online map where we can see the results of the CPT? More widely there could be opportunities for mutual benefit but looking at similarities and differences between the two tools. Based on what I've seen in this the CPT seems more area-based, advantageous from a healthy places perspective, but not sure how it would pick-out priority routes in need of intervention?

  • 6 months ago
  • |
  • Robin Lovelace

    Hi Robin, We're currently working on an open data platform which will host a range of data relating to cycling in Scotland. As part of this we will be able to upload the CPT outputs which people could examine. The CPT has been developed to be useful throughout the disparate geography of Scotland and the bespoke and evolving nature of the tool allows to integrate new modules to meet the needs of partners. There is certainly the possibility for us to meet with the PCT team again to discuss future opportunities.

  • 24 days ago
  • |
  • Luke

    Hi Eachann, we are looking at implementing Strava data as an additional piece of informative information rather than something which impacts on the results. The aim is for users to be able to see where popular strava routes are in comparison to areas of potential.

  • 23 days ago
  • |
  • Luke

    Hey, thanks for posting this. I'd heard about the CPT and always wanted to know more. Do you guys ever utilise strava data? I know the data is skewed towards a particular type of cyclist but still potentially useful!

  • 23 days ago
  • |
  • Eachann

    Great to see a tool for helping to prioritise much-needed investment in cycling in Scotland. Another tool that may be of interest is the Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT). An important feature of the PCT is that it is publicly accessible, meaning people can see the results for their local areas - as illustrated here: http://ww.pct.bike/ - is there an online map where we can see the results of the CPT? More widely there could be opportunities for mutual benefit but looking at similarities and differences between the two tools. Based on what I've seen in this the CPT seems more area-based, advantageous from a healthy places perspective, but not sure how it would pick-out priority routes in need of intervention?

  • 6 months ago
  • Robin Lovelace

    Hi Robin, We're currently working on an open data platform which will host a range of data relating to cycling in Scotland. As part of this we will be able to upload the CPT outputs which people could examine. The CPT has been developed to be useful throughout the disparate geography of Scotland and the bespoke and evolving nature of the tool allows to integrate new modules to meet the needs of partners. There is certainly the possibility for us to meet with the PCT team again to discuss future opportunities.

  • 24 days ago
  • Luke

    Hi Eachann, we are looking at implementing Strava data as an additional piece of informative information rather than something which impacts on the results. The aim is for users to be able to see where popular strava routes are in comparison to areas of potential.

  • 23 days ago
  • Luke

    Hey, thanks for posting this. I'd heard about the CPT and always wanted to know more. Do you guys ever utilise strava data? I know the data is skewed towards a particular type of cyclist but still potentially useful!

  • 23 days ago
  • Eachann