Cycling towards an active nation using open data

22 January 2020    

Active Travel Open Data – new online ‘one-stop-shop’ for everyday cycling and active travel data in Scotland

The growth of open data started in the early 1990s, when Timothy Berners-Lee introduced the world to the world wide web. Since then, open data has gained popularity in line with our increasing use of the internet, and with the adoption of government open data initiatives.

So, what is open data?

Data is ‘open’ when it is put out in the public domain without any restrictions surrounding use or republishing. This has many advantages, and you can read more about this on the Open Data Institute website.

Using open data

One of the many uses of open data is in decision making, in particular decisions that affect the way we live, move, and connect. The process of planning a space for people to use (known as place-making) can be improved by having access to valuable and relevant data. Better access to data means more evidence-based decision making, and the use of data that is ‘open’ means more transparency.

On top of this, by using open data, we are allowing ourselves to work in a more collaborative way, creating relationships with other data providers, and developing working partnerships. All of this good stuff leads to more effective, purpose-driven decision making, leading to delivery of well-designed sustainable spaces, which ultimately means people enjoy using the spaces they live and work in.

Open data and Cycling Scotland

So what has any of this got to do with cycling? Turns out, quite a bit! The government has recently released the Active Travel Framework (ATF) for Scotland which sets out several strategic objectives and outcomes. The ATF also presents 15 indicators which are essentially the ways we will measure how successful the implementation of the ATF has been, and data will play a part in measuring progress.

We recently launched Active Travel Open Data (ATOD)¸ an online open data sharing platform for everyday cycling and active travel data. It provides an online ‘one-stop-shop’ for cycling, walking and wheeling data in Scotland, providing easy access to open data, promoting transparency and supporting evidence-based decision-making to facilitate improvements in active travel.

We are currently developing a real-time data upload from our cycling counters, and we already have national and some local authority data on the site (Glasgow City Council, Tactran, and others)

How Active Travel Open Data works

The ATOD platform is hosted by the open data portal USMART. All data on ATOD is open-access and freely available for anyone to download. Additionally, an organisation can become a data provider and upload their own data. The user can create maps, make use of APIs, and there are useful infographics displaying high-level active travel statistics that can be embedded into the user’s own website.

How will we know if it’s having an impact?

This is where things get interesting! How exactly do we measure the impact that open data has? It’s a good question, and as it happens, it’s a question that is being asked globally (read about The Open Data Barometer). Our aim is to measure the impact of ATOD on delivering active travel outcomes including looking at who uses ATOD, what it is used for, how the data is used and what kind of data is uploaded and downloaded.

Great, so what next?

If you are an organisation with active travel data – get in touch! We would be delighted to host your data. If you want data – then go straight to Active Travel Open Data and have a look at what we have up there already, and remember to keep checking in as the portal grows.