imec Data Tech fosters Urban Cycling Exploration
How can data spaces enhance the Serendipitous Cycling Route Planner?
The intersection of technology and urban mobility is reaching an exciting phase. The Whitepaper on EU Bicycle Data Spaces, a recent publication by imec is food for thought. It offers a glimpse into the vision of bike data spaces, highlighting how data can be harnessed to transform the cycling experience in cities and to contribute to better and safer cycling experiences in general. It explores the key concepts, challenges, and opportunities associated with bicycle data spaces, with a focus on its potential to address the challenges of accessing and interpreting cycling data in the EU. The whitepaper stakeholders in the quadruple helix such as governments, academia, industry (i.e. bike-sharing companies), and civil society (think of cyclists themselves). This approach, when combined with initiatives like the Serendipity Engine's route planner, enables a more dynamic and explorative urban cycling culture anywhere in Europe.
Data Technology to Shape Cycling Experiences
The whitepaper introduces data spaces as a comprehensive framework for collecting and utilizing cycling-related data. A data space can be seen as an evolution of the separate interfaces for (open) data. It brings together a number of these interfaces in a protected ‘virtual space’ where very clear agreements and contracts apply between participants. These include how, and with whom, data is exchanged. Furthermore, it covers pressing concerns such as privacy, security, costs, and intellectual property. It is compelling to know that different agreements can also be made between different actors: for example, a city can share data with other governments as free open data, while charging commercial users for the same information. By standardizing agreements and ways of working together, it becomes much easier and efficient to share or reuse data.
The bicycle data space, which offers more than just standardized cycling data formats and data sharing agreements, will enable route engines to offer varied and personalized cycling experiences, adapting to the unique characteristics of each region more easily. New adapters emerging in a bike data space need only to adapt to the standardized data sharing systems and formats established by the data space itself. This implies it becomes a lot easier for applications to scale to different cities and regions that are connected to the data space ecosystem. Think of a serendipitous route planner engine devised in Flanders, which can be easily adapted and transferred to Barcelona city. This does not only open possibilities for enhancing the quality of cycling experiences on a European scale, but is also meeting the ambitious goals of innovative urban cycling projects throughout the regions such as MegaBITS.
A Data-Driven Future
As previously detailed in this news item, the Serendipity Engine project takes a unique approach to urban cycling. Moving away from traditional route planning, it encourages cyclists to discover their city through routes less frequently traveled. This concept of spontaneous exploration aligns perfectly with the data-centric approach outlined in the recent publication. By integrating this framework, the route planner could offer cyclists not just a journey from point A to B, but an adventure filled with unexpected encounters and discoveries.
The role of data availability in enhancing the urban cycling experience in such a way cannot be overstated. By tapping into a rich pool of information from traffic patterns, cycling counts, accident data, points of interest, all the way to hidden gems in the city, cyclists can enjoy a more immersive, engaging ride that is also safer and more context aware. This approach promises a shift in how we navigate our cities, where each cycling journey becomes a unique exploration. The convergence of data technology and urban mobility, therefore, reshapes how we experience cycling in the city.
“We already make extensive use of data when it comes to motorized traffic. Both individual drivers who use traffic apps and route planners daily, and governments that indicate the location of roadworks and diversion routes or investigate where dangerous or busy traffic arteries are located. For bicycle data, this data-driven approach is still in its infancy, and we want to change that.” Evelien Marlier – Domain lead Urban Mobility and Logistics at imec
The white paper lists at least three key cycling data subdomains that will be of key interest for the serendipitous cycling route planner and that could be integrated into an EU bicycle data space that forms part of the greater European Mobility Data Space ecosystem.
1. Data on movement and route planning: where does the cyclist ride or want to ride?
Using comprehensive cycling data, including origins, destinations, and routes taken by cyclists, is key for enhancing urban cycling experiences. This information not only aids in analyzing and optimizing the use of existing infrastructure but also guides the planning of new, more engaging cycling paths. It enables the creation of a serendipitous route planner that offers personalized and explorative journeys, blending the practicality of efficient route planning with the excitement of discovering scenic and less-traveled paths.
2. Data on assets: information about bike lanes, bike paths and infrastructure.
Accurate and up-to-date information about cycling infrastructure, such as bike lanes, paths, bridges, underpasses, and related amenities, is vital for any bicycle-related data project. It enables route planners to suggest the safest cycling routes. However, current maps of bike lanes often lack standardization and interchangeability. By publishing this information in a standardized format within a data space, it becomes more accessible and useful for cycling applications, especially navigation tools. This approach enhances the overall cycling experience by ensuring riders have access to the most current and comprehensive information about their routes and cycling amenities.
3. Data on route experience: information about journey quality and experience.
Several projects have been using sensor-equipped bicycles to map bike lanes and assess their quality. While this data is invaluable, it's not being shared optimally. Additionally, there are initiatives gathering feedback from cyclists and bicycle organizations about their experiences on specific routes or places. A data space could standardize access to this varied data, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of a particular area or type of report. By integrating sensory data and user feedback, it can offer a nuanced picture of cycling routes, contributing to the development of more user-friendly and satisfying cycling journeys.
To this extent, we examined how data can revolutionize urban cycling experiences and contribute to safer and more enjoyable cycling using imec’s whitepaper on 'bicycle data spaces' as a backbone. These spaces offer a central place to discover relevant data sets and contain clear agreements on how and with whom the data is shared by addressing key concerns like privacy, security, and intellectual property rights.
Specifically, the bicycle data space could greatly enhance initiatives such as the Serendipity Engine project which aims to provide more personalized and explorative cycling experiences. By integrating different types of data, from traffic patterns to subjective experiences of routes, the Serendipity Engine could offer journeys that are not just about commuting from point A to point B but are adventures filled with unexpected yet pleasant discoveries and encounters.
Does this spark your interest?
We hope to meet you along our way, serendipitously or meticulously planned. You might increase the chances of staying informed about the Serendipity Engine project by subscribing to our newsletter or connecting on LinkedIn.
This post is written by imec. It is mainly responsible for the work package on the pilot integrations and validations. Imec's researchers on this project are Casper Van Gheluwe, Thomas De Meester, Olivia Willems, project officer Eridona Selita, and domain lead Evelien Marlier.