Bike Counts

Toronto Cycling App Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why did the City build a cycling app? Why not use data from another existing platform such as Strava, Map My Ride etc.?

A:  Other platforms such as Strava are one source of information, but are statistically biased toward recreational riders and lacks a user survey and trip purpose. The City built its own cycling app, so that the data collection parameters would be in line with the City's existing data sets. For example, the way the app has been designed allows the City to cross analyze the data collected by the app with the City of Toronto's Cycling Surveys.

Unlike most other cycling mapping apps, the Toronto Cycling App asks cyclists to classify their routes such as exercise, commute, school rides. The App also allows the cyclist to classify their cycling experience level, so we can better understand the route choices being made by users of differing cycling ability.

Many free apps which may be downloaded to track cycling trips, do not meet the City's requirements for privacy protection. Data collected by other platforms in many cases has been managed in an unsecure way, and therefore does not ensure the privacy of the user. As a government agency, the City of Toronto is required by law to observe the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).


Q: What phones can use the app?

A: Android version 1.5+, and iOs version 5.0+.  

Q: Can I upload trips I tracked already on another platform to the City of Toronto Cycling app?

A: The data collected using other sources are similar to the Toronto Cycling App but do not have the same parameters that we have built in to our app such as the user survey, trip classification etc. How a trip is classified (eg. recreational vs. commuter trips), cyclist experience level are important values for the transportation planning mandate of this data collection and analysis exercise.

Although, the platform has been built so you can export your data & send to any platform which accepts CSV if you like.
We would hope that cyclists could help and utilize the Toronto Cycling app, even if it is for a few trips so that their different routes can be captured as part of our network planning exercise and beyond.


Q: What are the safeguards to protect the information the app collects? Does the app allow me to be tracked in real time on my route?

A: To protect the identity of app users, the unique ID of the user's device (UDID) will not be stored in the server. Instead, as found in the existing cycle track app code, a randomized user ID is assigned locally on the user's phone and this randomized ID number is then stored on the server.

The cyclists' trip data is collected in the form of GPS points. GPS trip data is only collected when the user actively presses the "record" button in the App. To protect user's privacy, the first and last 30 seconds of each trip is deleted before it enters the server/user interface for analysis. This ensures that the user's trip information is only collected from the closest intersection.  At any point during a user's trip, the user can discard their trip and their route information will not be sent to the data server.

All information collected from the App is stored on a server located in Canada.

These measures are implemented to ensure that users are not personally identifiable and their trip and demographic information is anonymized.


Q: How exact is GPS data being collected?

A: The GPS data points collected may allow for a high level of detail to be captured.  For example, if a cyclist is using a sidewalk instead of a roadway, this alignment may be captured.  This information may help identify neighbourhood cycling shortcuts a rider has developed based on the local knowledge of their neighbourhood.

The data collected as part of this exercise is anonymous, and so will not be used to ticket cyclists who may choose to cycle on a sidewalk in order to make a network connection.


Q: Will the data be used to identify "underused" cycling routes to remove existing cycling infrastructure?

A: The information is being gathered for a network planning exercise in order to identify new cycling route opportunities as part of the development of Toronto's next Bikeway Network Plan.


Q: If the city is using this to monitor cycling routes there may be preferred cycling routes that are not taken because of the absence of cycling infrastructure today. For example cyclists may not use streets such as Richmond or Adelaide without cycle tracks, but this does not mean that they are not a suitable corridor for the installation of cycle tracks as part of the downtown cycling network.

A: Data for existing use will be logged for routes being used for cycling now, however, broad trends in cycling origin and destination movements will also be analyzed.  Data analysis will seek to identify high volume desire lines between neighbourhoods so that future opportunities for cycling infrastructure interventions may be considered on streets where cycling may not be comfortable for most cyclists prior to infrastructure interventions.

Q: Why does Toronto need a new cycling plan?

A: The City of Toronto's settlement and travel patterns have changed since Toronto's last Bike Plan was developed in the 1990s.  Major transportation, public transit, residential and commercial developments may offer new opportunities.  For example, major arterial roadways such as Bloor Street, and Eglinton Ave (where a LRT is currently in development) were not included in the 2001 Bike Plan.

Best practices for cycling network design have changed since Toronto's last Bike Plan was developed in the 1990s.  For example the 2001 Bike Plan did not contain any recommendations for cycle tracks.  On roadways which have a high volume of high-speed motor vehicles, cycle track type bike routes may encourage more residents to ride than painted bike lanes would.  The 2001 Bike Plan did not identify opportunities to create cycling connections using contra-flow bicycle lanes and traffic calming interventions on local streets.

The new cycling plan will expand on Toronto's existing cycling network.  Staff are commencing work to present new options to Toronto City Council in 2015.

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