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Joining the Data Group: FAQ


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

Bike Ottawa runs on volunteer power. Collectively, we can do amazing things. Our next big undertaking is to tap into our volunteer resources (that's you, by the way) to build a data group, and produce some compelling information that we can use to make cycling in Ottawa better than ever. Join by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. On the fence? If you're even slightly tempted to get involved, keep reading...

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?

Lurkers are welcome. Join the data group mailing list by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and you'll likely find some opportunities to participate in ways that fit your schedule. This committment can be as big or as small as you like, and in-person attendance is not mandatory: much of this work will be done on your own computer.

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.



Bike Data in Ottawa

A bit of background

Not too long ago, there were only very rough bike count estimates available. Students in deck chairs on street corners would count passing traffic. Around 2009, Citizens for Safe Cycling (that's what we used to call ourselves) teamed up with the NCC, the City of Ottawa and Telus to invest in four counters along both sides of the canal, at the Alexandra bridge and at the bike path near the abandoned Prince of Wales railway bridge over the Ottawa River. A loop in the ground counts the bicycles, a small memory stores the data and once in a while the data is retrieved by Bike Ottawa volunteers. The City of Ottawa in turn puts the data online.

When the Laurier bike lane was installed in 2011, 6 more counters were put in. Two of the counters send their data daily to a server so that you can read the results online the next day. In April 2013 the NCC installed the region's first 'bike totem' on the Portage Bridge to count the cyclists crossing between Quebec and Ontario. There are more counters implemented with the ultimate goal to have counters at all major bike access routes into down town.There are numerous counters in the ground on perhaps 20 locations.


Counter data in Ottawa

See the results of Laurier: bike counter at Metcalfe

See the results of Portage: bike counter on Portage (not operational between end of November and end of March)

City of Ottawa open data for bike stats is downloadable in several file formats. 


Collision heatmap (Ottawa)

Alex deVries compiled collision data from 2004 and later, which you can see here: pedestrian and bike collision data as reported to Ottawa police. The data are shown in a heat map (some browsers have trouble with the heatmap). You can choose a year or multiple years, choose pedestrians and/or cyclists etc.


Fallen cyclists map (Canada)

Wendy Lucas maintains a map of cyclists, killed in traffic. You can find the interactive map here.



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