Adding a drinking fountain to Open Street Map is as easy as dropping a pin on a map. The Strava layer (blue dots) is useful for tracing where people are riding, especially in places where the tree canopy obscures the satellite view. If you know how to point and click, you can edit Open Street Map. Image: Strava Slide
I don't know anything about data, why would you need me?
Because, you DO know something about data. You know shortcuts in your neighbourhood that could be added to a map. You can count parking spots (bike and otherwise). You can design a survey. You have ideas about what needs to be done to make cycling better, and have a perspective on what barriers to cycling exist for you. You have questions, even if you don't have the answers. You have a network of contacts who might be useful. You have the design skills to make a visually-appealing graphic of our results. Everyone has something to contribute, even if you don't think of yourself as a data expert. We need diverse people with diverse points of view, to help us ask interesting questions, and to help us do the legwork of finding the answers. There's a lot more to data than numbers.
Why does Bike Ottawa need a data group?
We have a Board that sets the direction for the organization and works to influence governments, an Events Group that is our public outreach to the community, Advocacy Working Group (AWG) that is focused on projects that are being implemented, and now, this Data Group, which will act as our "research and development" branch.
What projects are you doing? What are the goals?
We have a very broad scope. If you can dream it, maybe someone can do it. Certainly, we'll be producing the kinds of figures that go into our Annual Report on Cycling, such as bike counts. But we'll also be looking to develop tools that Ottawa cyclists can use in their day-to-day, such as an interactive map for winter route planning, or a bike parking locator, or Streetview-style imagery of Ottawa's cycling routes. We could crowd-source a map of missing links, and work to have them included in the next edition of the Ottawa Cycling Plan. We're interested in finding out how we can best engage our members, and grow the organization. We could support the AWG by providing them with numbers on demand (such as traffic counts, traffic speed, parking availability) to help them make a better advocacy case. We'll get figures for our spokespeople to cite when giving media interviews. Overall, our goal will be to use information to make cycling in Ottawa more convenient, and to make a well-informed case for smart investment.
How are you doing it?
We already have access to many online open data resources and tools. Links to some of those will be posted on this site in the future. Some of our members can provide guidance on how to get started. For other information, it can be as simple as submitting a request. Or, sometimes we'll even generate our own data, perhaps by crowd-sourcing or doing a questionnaire or physical (or virtual) walk-about. We even have some resources to put towards this work, to help us get the equipment and assistance we might need.
Will I be helpful?
Yes. Nobody is expected to be an expert, but we know everyone brings something to the table. Some are good at using the right tools, others enjoy digging up information, some people have amazing insight. Together, we'll help each other past the roadblocks.
Do I have time for this? What if I can't make it out to a meeting?
Will I have fun?
If you aren't having fun, we're doing something wrong. Volunteering should be fun. We hope you'll meet some new friends with a shared interest. You're bound to learn some new things about bike advocacy and data. Some of those skills could even be great resume builders. We try to respect schedules and keep our meetings moving, but Bike Ottawa meetings are fairly social and casual, and we always have time for a few laughs. Sometimes there are snacks. Even if you don't know anyone (in fact, especially if you don't know anyone), you can expect a warm welcome from the meeting host, and lots of support to get you up to speed.