The Speed of Glasgow’s Cycle Traffic

  • Have you ever wondered about the average speeds that cyclists can maintain?
  • Have you ever wondered if cycling on a back street is likely to be significantly slower than cycling on the main direct route?

Wonder no more. I have been provided the Strava Metro data covering Glasgow for the year 2015 courtesy of Strava and the Urban Big Data Centre of Glasgow University. For those who don’t know about it, Strava is a smart phone app that links to GPS and other data location services so that cyclists can track their rides, share their routes and gain other insights into their cycling history. Strava anonymise and aggregate these data to provide mapping and statistical data on cycle usage which is the product they term Strava Metro. In effect, it is a self-generating map of where cyclists go.

One of the fundamental ways that Strava Metro is set up is to relate all cycling activity to digitally modelled sections of road. These sections have basic information concerning  their location, length and road-type, and onto these sections data concerning the cycling activity is attached. One data type that Strava Metro provides is the average time that cyclists take to traverse each road section. Combining this time with the road section length, it is possible to calculate the average cycle speed (speed = distance/time) of each section. I present the results for Glasgow here (click for a bigger image).


The first thing that jumps out at you is the motorway network where speeds of >25mph prevail, (average 47.2mph!). Who knew that the motorways were such a popular cycle network? The reality is that a very few Strava users forget to switch off while driving.

The second thing that jumps out at you is that average cycle riding speeds on the main roads are considerably faster than on the back roads. Main (radial) road speeds average 15.2mph whereas speeds on the residential/back-roads average only 10.8mph. Proportionately, main road cycle speeds are nearly 50% faster than on the back streets.

The main roads are therefore not just the shortest route between most points of the city, they allow significantly faster cycle speeds to be maintained. It’s no wonder that these main roads are the routes preferred by cyclists (see *). These data emphasise that the Glasgow cycling community must resist the installation of cycle routes/facilities on the back streets. These will not only serve to make our journeys longer but will serve to make them slower, thereby reducing the utility of cycling as a useful transport mode.

(* )



For those who want detailed information in average cycle speeds, I have placed a GoogleEarth KMZ file here . Click on a road element and you can read out the average cycle speed on a particular road section.


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