Advertise on BikePortland

ODOT releases ‘ORcycle’ smartphone app to collect biking data

Posted by on November 7th, 2014 at 3:16 pm


The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and a research lab at Portland State University just announced “Orcycle” a smartphone app billed as a way for bicycle riders to share “valuable information” with the agency.

Here’s more from an ODOT press release that just hit our inbox:

Gathering valuable data about how bicyclists use the transportation system has always been a challenge. Starting Nov. 10, a new Smartphone app created by the Transportation Technology and People (TTP) lab at Portland State University, in partnership with ODOT, will provide data that can help planners and others make decisions based on users’ feedback and facts never before gathered in one place. The goal of the app, called ORcycle, is to get cycling data from people who ride bicycles voluntarily contributing via their Smartphone, from anywhere in the state.

The app allows you to record trips, display maps of the rides, and input feedback about collisions and safety issues. The data will then go to transportation planners to help them make decisions.

“Prior to Orcycle,” the statement continues, “there was no systematic way to receive feedback regarding bicycle route safety or riders’ comfort level with bike lanes, routes, signals, etc.”

The data will be made available to transportation planner across the state who will then, “be able to access the aggregated data to better design, build or upgrade bicycle facilities and other bicycle-related projects.”

The new app was developed by noted PSU researcher and professor Miguel Figliozzi, whose previous bike-related research has been featured on BikePortland.

To thwart privacy concerns, the app does not ask for a name or address and you can change the privacy settings to limit what type of data it records. No word on how this is — or isn’t — related to ODOT’s purchase of data from GPS-tracking app giant Strava back in May.

The app follows a strict privacy policy and does not ask for a name or address, and users have control over the data they are sharing. Check it out via Google Play (android) or the iTunes store (iOS).

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Dan G November 7, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Let’s see if I can remember to record every trip.

    I wish I could just give them access to my Moves App cycling data. The app continuously records walking/cycling/running and the API could grant access to specific activity types.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

    • Corey Burger November 7, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      The key thing is if your data collects enough demographic information to be useful (as well as trip purpose information). Without both, they are just lines on a map.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • ricochet November 10, 2014 at 11:24 am

      The hard part is that Moves hasn’t updated forever, and there’s no good way to get data out of it. (plus, it thinks I live in Col. Summer Park…) But as the beach boys said, wouldn’t it be nice…

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Barney November 7, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Give these to all of the “Bike Swarmers.” That way they can contribute something positive to the cycling community!

    Recommended Thumb up 12

  • Eric Ivy November 7, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Please remember kids, Barney is just a cartoon. Nothing more.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • q`Tzal November 8, 2014 at 1:21 am

      Was that just a direct insult at the previous commenter?

      Recommended Thumb up 5

  • John Lascurettes November 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Installing and trying this tonight. Hope it isn’t too much of a battery hog.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • AlanG24 November 9, 2014 at 9:40 am

    In addition to regular riders adopting the app, I think it would be great to promote use of the app during the Bike Commute Challenge. Imagine all the new people who give commuting a try providing their data. Could help identify specific conditions and locations where they encounter obstacles.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • PdxRunner November 9, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Th eyes want you to record a route only one time, no matter how many times you ride it. I would think frequency of use would be an important parameter. Also, if you could use the App to record multiple rides, more people might use it.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Scott Kocher November 10, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Would be better if the app routed safety and maintenance problems to the responsible agency. Many people lose interest in reporting problems to someplace (like B-SMART) and then seeing no fix.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • Yellow Vest November 10, 2014 at 9:28 am

    I’m all for technology, but it seems like you could get the same information by just inviting J Maus and like 3-4 other people to put thumb tacks on a map of Portland and say “fix these spots”… i’d imagine the total cost of this method would be about $50 for the map and pastries… maybe some beer.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

    • peejay November 10, 2014 at 10:15 am

      As much as I value Jonathan’s opinion, he’s limited by what he knows and hears about. This should provide a wider spread of data if it’s to work properly. There are parts of town that mean a lot to people who live there and that may have real problems, but that remain out of the eye of our little social group of bike-aware people. We—and ODOT—need that info.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Andy K November 10, 2014 at 11:33 am

    I will be shocked if this app tracks 1/1000th of the total mileage recorded by Strava in this state.

    The 400,000 Oregon trips they bought from Strava in 2013 is all the information they need. Another data purchase in 2016 once the two new Portland bridges are done and open for spring wouldn’t be a bad idea, though.

    I wish they could just promote Strava for everyday trips and commuting without specifically endorsing it….then they’ll start to get more “well-rounded” data.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • KVC November 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Similar to using Strava data, this is a highly inequitable tool. These data are still being collected on a self-reported basis from the specific demographic that bicycles, owns a smart-phone, is willing/able to download and operate the app and is willing to share data. In other words, it will be very effective at capturing information from people like me and many of my friends and co-workers.

    However, this is only one portion of the community. What about the folks who don’t participate for various reasons, e.g. don’t want to waste their data plan on this, don’t have the skills necessary to download and use it, are more concerned about getting to their 3rd job than using the app, etc.?

    Will a paucity of data for an area be interpreted as non or low use of a route? I hope the end users / planners are cognizant that this collection methodology has huge holes and will find other ways to fill those gaps. I’m concerned that this could be used to prioritize infrastructure enhancements that benefit the app’s users while ignoring needs of others.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Yellow Vest November 10, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      See my suggestion above…

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Huey Lewis November 10, 2014 at 3:53 pm

        No. Not good enough. Let’s utilize when it makes sense.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Huey Lewis November 10, 2014 at 3:55 pm

          Let’s utilize technology that is. And I’ll utilize my eyes for proofreading.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Huey Lewis November 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Keep in mind that unless people who are limited in phone technology or data, too dense to figure out how to download and use an app, and maybe commuting to their third or even fourth job, they’re all biking on the same streets as you and I! Unless they’re not. Are we biking on different streets? I can’t tell.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Samuel Black November 24, 2014 at 11:25 am

    The app for android is good for me. I can report my bike ride, and also its handy. I forgot to stop the ride and the app was smart enough to notify me to stop or pause the app when no activity 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Zaphod December 12, 2014 at 7:53 am

    If you can say “strava” on front of your friends/co-workers without having to define it, then you are an elite slice of the commuting pie. Not a bad thing per se but we should also capture data from the electronics free guy riding on Sandy or MLK. This app supplements strava well and is a great idea. A third data collection approach to catch those outside of these two groups would help round out a complete picture.

    Recommended Thumb up 0