Turn on Strava for everyday journeys, it could reshape streets for the better

17th March 2024

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 349: Turn on Strava for everyday journeys, it could reshape streets for the better

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUEST: Tom Knights, Strava Metro


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 349 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Sunday 17th of March 2024.

David Bernstein 0:28
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e-bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit www.ternbicycles.com. That’s t e r n bicycles.com to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:03
I’m Carlton Reid. On today’s show, I’m talking with Tom Knights. He’s the senior manager of partnerships and marketing for Strava Metro. This is a super-useful active travel city-making dataset-service from the athlete tracking app. And if you bristled at the word athlete, because you think there’s no sport in transport, listen on …

Strava metro was very, very

insistent in 2020. About how successful cycling and and walking in all active mode because of the pandemic and the blog posting was, you know, we’re very pained to say this. However, you know, it’s really, really, we’re going crackers with the amount of cycling as you know, the bike boom, yeah, what did go amazing. Now, the bike industry right now is famously and woefully massively down in the dumps. So what have you seen with usage? So what has happened since 2022? actual usage of bicycles not just, you know, we know the sales are bad. Is the usage bad also?

Tom Knights 2:21
Yeah, that’s a really good question. And actually like to say the kind of the free, the free, free call to Strava Metro kind of suddenly going free was actually very well timed, unfortunately, under very difficult circumstances globally. One of the reasons like I say, we kind of made Strava Metro free wasn’t actually because of the pandemic and the looming kind of crisis. And obviously, this switch to human powered transportation. It was like, almost like an unfortunate timing, but but obviously beneficial for cities and all the planners that start to use this data. So yes, we definitely saw this huge boom during the kind of 2020 21 era. And thankfully, because a lot of cities and a lot of regions and governments had the foresight to start investing in protecting cycle lanes in safe routes, which we know is one of the biggest barriers to people actually kind of picking up a bicycle. Lot of those initiatives have stayed, and we hope that they’ve stayed because actually, they’ve been able to see some of the Strava activity straight through Strava Metro, and then use that against other data sources to start to understand actually, is this being used in terms of trends, and overall, we’ve definitely seen more of a normalisation but again, what we are seeing is obviously, people looking for alternatives to either commute, and then well, kind of 2024 the word commute looks a bit different than maybe it did in 2019. But anything that’s a utility trip, and essentially through safe and accessible infrastructure. That’s what we know. And I’m sure you know, from all the kind of conversations you’ve had over the years, that’s the biggest driver to people, making it feel safe. So, long story short, yes, we’ve definitely seen a normalisation now, in terms of growth

Carlton Reid 4:06
Normalisation, that sounds like quite a bit of a euphemism for, for what?

Tom Knights 4:12
So I guess the new the new normal as it were, so we’ve definitely seen that growth. And then now what we’ve seen, like I say, as people who are consistently cycling now, and then obviously, we hope that through infrastructure improvements into society into communities, that will then also encourage even more folks to pick up a bicycle on that front.

Carlton Reid 4:33
I’m gonna carry on digging here, because I think it’s quite important. So that graph that was on the Strava Metro, I remember it well, the human powered transportation one Yep. Yeah. So I mean, that was that was great. But, you know, so when you’ve been normalisation, is that graph, it went up like crazy. And do you mean by normalisation that it went down so well usage is down or has


Tom Knights 5:00
so not I mean, it’s difficult to say but I wouldn’t say plateau because we’re always seeing kind of growth. And that’s what’s so exciting a and I can’t necessarily kind of say a lot more about the Strava core Strava world because of course, that’s a different kind of department as it were. But in terms of the Metro world, and what we’re seeing in terms of cycling, in general, we’ve just seen that spike from 2019 to 2020, that continued growth into 2021. And now what is is probably more of that kind of continuous steady growth. As opposed to that, we I wouldn’t say we’ve definitely seen any kind of drop off as it were on that front.

Carlton Reid 5:34
So it’s interesting, because we now have metrics that we just didn’t have, you know, 10, 15 20 years ago, from an industry perspective, used to be able to track

sales of number of bikes, and but you never knew whether, actually people even though a few bikes sold, actually, people might actually be riding more, potentially. So now we have metrics from from people like you, where you can not only track the number of bikes sold, but you can also track roughly whether people are using those bikes. So that’s fascinating information from a market point of view. And the way I’m going from on that is

you’ve got some high end holiday companies, you know, Glorious Gravel going to Sri Lanka, Namibia, all these amazing places with people who got clearly a lot of money and a fair bit of time. Yeah, still getting out there cycling. So when we haven’t seen that end shift at all. But no, that’s the rarefied end, isn’t it? That’s like, Yeah, from from a metro point of view.

Tom Knights 6:42
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I in terms of, you know, think travel and tourism, that is obviously a kind of luxury. And, you know, for kind of people a having the kind of means to kind of jump on a plane or to kind of visit and take the time off. And that’s great, though, for kind of seeing that, that boom, because we want people to kind of get an introduction to cycling in general. And if that means discovering it on a holiday tour, fantastic. Hopefully, that then translates into cycling into work maybe two or three days a week, or suddenly dropping a car trip once a week, because they’ve discovered the joy of cycling. But I think January what we’re hoping, though, is we see this bike boom, fueled by better and safer streets. That’s, that’s our kind of main concern is that, if you build it, I know, you’ve heard this phrase a lot before, you know, if you build it, people will come. And we know that from Strava Metro data, when you look at the kind of streets where there’s been investment, the Before and After Effects is amazing. See this kind of increase in trips. Now, of course, you might say, Well hold on Strava growth. But actually, what we’re seeing is that Strava Metro data alongside Eco-counter or Telraam data, you can start to kind of normalise and build a model. And I think that’s what we’re we’re hoping that people can start to, as you mentioned, all these amazing datasets start to pull these together, and then really build this picture to kind of tell a different story than perhaps maybe the negative stories are saying in terms of, you know, cycling booms over or no one’s using this bike lane, etc.

Carlton Reid 8:10
And this is an obvious question, okay. And this is a question that I’m sure you are incredibly well used to batting away, and you know, you’re gonna get it. And you, you could almost do it yourself. So that is in your documentation. It’s all about athletes. Of course, when you put that into Strava Metro, you’re talking about non lycra. I know you discuss this on your blogs, but just just tell me now, why I would be wrong to suggest that Mamils, women on bikes and lycra why the data is robust, even though you talk about athletes?

Tom Knights 8:53
Yeah, no, you’re quite right. And it’s a, it’s a really good point. And I suppose, from the data point of view, we’re not looking at,

we look at those as activities and people and trips so that the athletes is more of a kind of Strava kind of communications in a playful way to call our community athletes, and you’ve probably seen various different messages over the years about, you know, if you’re an athlete, you’re on Strava. And, and essentially, there is a lot of truth in that, you know, we want anyone who moves through human powered transportation, or through moves and find their joy in discovering movement ways we would define as an athlete, you know, anyone who is doing that, now appreciating the world of transportation planning and bike lanes and commuting, you might not think, you know, cycling across the Waterloo Bridge in the morning at 830. You’re an athlete, but essentially, from a metro point of view, what we’re looking to do is see these community based trips as data points, like say that can be used for improving infrastructure on that front. And I think the way that actually I would position it personally is often thinking, well, everyone who uploads a ride on to Strava is a human powered counter, because through through Metro

That’s going towards some kind of better cause in terms of funding and reviewing active travel investment.

But I do understand your point about you know, Mamil. And you know, a lot of drivers growth in the early days was fueled by that amazing core set of athletes. And you know, I grew up in this town called Dorking, which you’re probably familiar with, from the classic ride, sorry, and I’m very familiar, you know, the weekends kind of seeing, you know, the the kind of, I say the kind of more sportive rides coming through the town. But actually, what that served is actually an inspiration for more people’s go. Actually, that was quite fun. I should try that. And I think the data we’re seeing through Year in Sport that we’ve done anecdotally, through Metro data, that actually we’ve got a lot more 18 to 34 year olds, who are now also discovering the joy of active transportation.

And again, Metro data is telling us that it’s not just, you know, the weekend, you know, the Saturday morning at 10am, in the Surrey Hills or on the the kind of Yorkshire Dales it’s actually taking place on the streets of Manchester, or the streets of London, etc. And I think that’s what we’re hoping is that story through community or athletes, as you know, we’re calling it that that helps planners to see that trend is is not just, you know, the kind of Lycra

brigade Who are you know, cycling and I would all use what the same people that are cycling at the weekends, you know, on the kind of right sorry, classics or up in the Yorkshire Dales are also the same people that are using bike lanes. And equally as important when we’re thinking about counting.

Carlton Reid 11:30
Of course, you’re not getting

the invisible in American terms, it’s called the invisible cyclists. So these are often Latino.

Basically poor people on bikes, who are definitely not going to be using Strava. But going to using bikes, and then they call them invisible cyclists, because

they’re not on bicycles that perhaps

an enthusiast would ride, but they are using bicycles and all power to their elbow, but power to their knees. Now, you’re not capturing them. So if you’re not capturing a significant number of people who are using

the roads, does that not suggest that you’re missing an important chunk of people who are not using? You just can’t capture everybody? And how important is that?

Tom Knights 12:27
Yeah, really, really good point. And I guess a couple of bits on that is that

essentially no data set, you know, the world is accurate, you think about a, you know, a bicycle counsellor on the embankment or, you know, in the middle of Manchester, or even in the rural area, you know, if someone doesn’t go through that specific kind of counting station, as it were, you’re not being picked up in the count. And I think that’s what Strava Metro is really kind of aiming to do is essentially colouring the map with all the blank spots that aren’t being picked up. And being free, which is, again, one of these kind of opportunities to kind of get this data into the masses, allows transportation planners allows Safe Streets advocates, anyone who’s focused on transportation equity and environmental racism to dive into that data and go, Okay, looks like actually, there’s people going through this counting station here. But actually, Strava Metro is also showing us that people are going down this route. So what’s interesting what’s going on there. And again, you’re quite right to call out that the heat map, for example, in, you know, maybe underrepresented areas, or places that don’t necessarily have the same political will have, you know,

more affluent areas who have perhaps built cycle lanes or made their streets more attractive from things like heat islands, you think about kind of cities outside of the UK that suffer a lot from high temperatures, you know, the streets are not necessarily designed for being walkable and bikable. That’s what we’re really hoping we can also use the Strava data to show what’s not happening, as well as what’s happening. And again, a lot of the work that Metro is involved in is ties back into this kind of social impact piece. It’s not just, you know, we obviously want this data to be used by, you know, transportation planners, but we’re also hoping we can start to, you know, work a lot more with, you know, say advocacy groups, anyone likes easy, bold environmental racism and transportation equity, to really kind of look at that data, and metrics looks, it’s been designed that anyone including myself, I’m not a geospatial professional, but I can see, you know, through a map and looking at certain areas where people are cycling and when they’re not cycling, but also we want to build a product and I can’t really, you know, say I’m not necessarily holding the Strava product side, but we want to build an experience, which is all encompassing for everyone on there, but I definitely understand your point about the barriers to entry, you know, just in general, you cycling you need to have a bike to join Strava you need a mobile phone that supports you know, obviously your Strava although we do have connections with lots of fitness devices, but again, that comes at a cost, but hopefully, the more people that learn about

Metro and the authenticity and the kind of the fact that it’s free. The fact that Strava is free to join, it gives people a sense of empowerment that actually, I can change something that’s happening on my street. And that’s a big part of the messaging that, you know, I’m working on, and certainly have been working on for the last five years, because as you say,

maybe the association with Strava is it’s just for athletes, or people who are doing k runs, and Q RMS, etc. But actually, what we’re seeing is that more and more people are turning to Strava, to kind of log their activities, and hopefully through when they learn about Metro, they’ll realise that they’re actually changing their communities, because that data is really kind of playing a part in helping to shape your better infrastructure or, essentially, build a political case for more investment.

Carlton Reid 15:45
Good point. So somebody like me, who’s been a Strava member since 2013 I discovered by looking into my profile this morning,

Tom Knights 15:53
and then thank you for your long term membership.

Carlton Reid 15:57
I would say, I’m not a frequent updater. But I should be, shouldn’t I? So what you’re saying is people like me who have it on our phones, don’t use it, you know, because I don’t consider myself an athlete. Yeah, that should be turning on, for even everyday journeys, because it helps.

Tom Knights 16:18
So I’ve been, you know, I’d have that in writing. And, as it quite, you know, when we kind of go out to advocacy kind of events and talk to kind of people because I think, as you’ve just said, you know, the more people that discover about this, you know, cycle of like Strava, being free and then wanting to make streets better. And then Metro, obviously, enabling that, we think there’s a really compelling story. And I genuinely there’s, this is such a passionate thing to kind of work on. And I think we’re very lucky, you know, part of the metro team to be able to have these conversations with partners all over the world. And I think we are we’ve met at Velo-city a couple of times before. And the one thing that comes up all the time at these conferences is, you know, how are we measuring it? Or how do we win the case for safer streets? And, you know, this is our answer to that and to say, well, let’s come together and bring all these amazing datasets that are available out there. You know, let’s build a case and get people to see that this is available.

Carlton Reid 17:12
And those datasets, the expectation is, from your point of view, that a transportation planning department will be using multiple sources, they won’t be just using Metro. They’ll be using their own counting devices, hopefully, if they’ve got them. And they’ll be plotting everything. And they’ll have some sort of, will they have a desktop with everything on? Or have they got like a look at lots of different screens?

Tom Knights 17:40
Yeah, so what we hear from from foreigners, they use a lot of geospatial kind of software, you know, there’s obviously various different enterprise kind of grade level software and data analytics tools where you can always ingest multiple sorts of data. So we make extracting the data from from Metro, which is, I’m sure, hopefully, everyone realises completely anonymized, obviously, and then also aggregated, we make that very easy for partners to essentially download, and then upload back into, like, say, all of this data planning tools.

And obviously, you know, there’s multiple data sets out there. And largely, like I say, we use the same mapping tools as well. So OpenStreetMap is really important, you know, in terms of, actually, how do you paint a picture of your infrastructure in your area. And like, say, planners will then use that to build reports to kind of maybe produce research, and then essentially come up with this kind of our number, which says, you know, for every X number of trips on Strava, you can say that there’s 100 trips of normal, non non Strava usage, for example, send your Strava.

But, and we’ve seen a couple of examples that, you know, the Office of National Statistics have done that, in rural remote areas, Transport for London, have been using it to kind of model traffic lights through London and the timing that you get on green times, you know, and it’s not just Strava D. So you don’t want to build cities just around one particular user. But that’s why being like I say, a free tool to do that allows us to kind of

plug into all these other datasets.

Unknown Speaker 19:12
Let’s let’s go backwards a little bit into

Carlton Reid 19:16
that, that I’ll use your term, the athlete, so you basically got a rider? Yeah, going along. I’ll use like, even though I’m like to 50 miles away. I’ll use London as an example. So going along the Embankment. Yeah, yeah, yes, you’ve anonymized all the data. So this is not you know, you know, you don’t know this particular person on a bike at all. You can’t track anything. But you can see at a granular level, whether they are on the road or whether they are on the Embankment cycleway, and you can see where they make that you know, sudden turn like there’s a there’s a few turns on the embankment where you’ve got to make quite a shift to get on to the cycleway. So you in Strava Metro, you can see that too.


Tom Knights 20:01
Exactly that so we can see, like I say the, I think there’s something like 420 million edges in the whole world. So edge is referred to as streets on OpenStreetMap. And if you’ve got some enthusiastic mapping listeners on this podcast, hopefully they might be able to write in and correct me in some tell me how many exactly edges there are. But if you think about the world as all of these kind of different edges and routes that are built up, where there’s been a Strava activity gone over the top of that, and, of course, where there’s been a minimum of free, which allows us to kind of aggregate those activities, we can exactly that show you where people have turned left, how many trips went off, on a certain direction? Was this route busier because of a road closure one week? Or was this route more improved year on year because of a safer kind of passageway? You know, I appreciate we’re talkinh about cycling here. But if you think about running and walking, you know, was this improved? Because there was better lighting? Or were more people using this pathway, because, you know, there was a kind of nice new path put down. So I think this is like it’s this kind of colouring in the map with all the other kind of datasets that are available. And then Strava can kind of tell you that picture of where, you know, there has been activity.

Carlton Reid 21:12
So when Nick Ferrari goes on the radio and says, I got stuck behind a cyclist on the Embankment, they should be on the cycleway. You could or anybody could go to Strava Metro, and say, well, actually, that must have been just a completely

unusual person. Because look, 99.9% of of cyclists are going on to the cycleway. And here look, we can show you the heat map where that is happening. That’s what you can do?

Tom Knights 21:42
Exactly that. And like I say you want one colour, I would say is it’s not anyone. So that was one of the caveats to the authenticity of the kind of Metro project. And I know that word authenticity thrown a lot you know about but that the only reason Metro works is because the Strava community buy into this idea that the data has been used for something good, not for commercial purposes. So not anyone can access Metro, but TfL can access it, for example, in your example of the bike lanes in London, London cycling campaign could access this because of course, you know, they’re involved in advocacy work.

Unfortunately, LBC wouldn’t be able to access this, because obviously they’re using it for other purposes.

But actually anyone involved in safe infrastructure, and we hope that this is it, you know, when the the transportation teams, all these different medical authorities or local authorities can actually go, actually what we have seen on the street is that X percentage of people are using this bike lane on there. And that’s, that’s what I think it’s going to take to kind of not win the argument, but really convinced people that bike lanes are being used, and they’re a good investment. They’re just incredibly efficient, because you never see anyone in traffic. And then yes, people are constantly moving.

Carlton Reid 22:53
Yes. Now, I know you’re not on this side of it. So it’s a slightly unfair question to ask, but I’d like one I’d like you to tell me about anyway. So at the end, not not now. But at the end, I’d like you to go through and just tell people how much it costs to, you know, go the full fat version of Strava. But before you do that, and that’s going to be the end anyway, just let’s just, you know, just confirm this right now, you do not need to use Strava Metro for is free for transportation planners, anybody else. But you don’t need any, you’re not going to get hassled to become a pro member.

To be one of these people like me who just want to do good for the community by turning metro or Strava on for our normal daily rides, you won’t be charged for that you can get a free membership that will do everything apart from all the pro level stuff that you don’t need anyway, if you’re just one of these lapsed people?

Tom Knights 23:56
Yeah, it’s possible. And so, you know, Strava is like has always operated on that kind of freemium model, as it were, that you know, at its simplest, you can download the app, join the community upload rise. And then if you’ve made that road public, so I should have added that caveat as well, that will contribute to metric because of course, you know, people might want to hide the start or the end of their journeys, they won’t count. Some people might want to also hide a certain route. But hopefully, like say when they hear about the project and go actually, this is a pretty good idea, I should start uploading my routes and maybe, you know, further down the line as they kind of start to explore Strava they want to kind of look at a route or they want to kind of go oh, that could be quite a good tool to have because I’ve got more into my cycling journey, then yes, of course. Strava is open for them. But at its source and Metro, they are both free.

Carlton Reid 24:46
Mm hmm. Okay. At this point, I would like to cut away to my colleague, David who will give a short break.

David Bernstein 24:56
This podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles.

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Carlton Reid 25:57
Thanks, David. And we’re back with Tom Knights of Strava Metro, and I was looking at your LinkedIn profile. And as you do when you when you want to talk to somebody and you want to find out their background, and you’ve kind of similar background to me, in that you did classics you did you did like nothing to do with what you’re doing in your day job. You did like it will tell me what you did it was Exeter University exactly what you did.

So I kind of found found myself essentially looking at degree subjects where, you know, I was interested in more the kind of anthropological aspects of history and actually Classical Studies, and I’m always very much told by classic students that classics versus Classical Studies is a very different subjects. Obviously, one focuses heavily on Latin language in Greek texts, whereas Classical Studies is more about, you know, the discovery of what was going on during the Roman Empire in the Greek Empire period. So that was always a passion of mine about kind of understanding society, and maybe what was the kind of political kind of themes at the time and, you know, fascinated about some communities on there. And, of course, the story for the dad joke, but like, most people, when you study history, there’s no future in it.

I’ll use that.

Tom Knights 27:24
But yeah, obviously, you know, that allowed me, you know, I suppose to back in the kind of early 2000s, when I was at university, you know, it was a very privileged time, when they weren’t necessarily crippling university fees and structure. So it allowed me to kind of study a subject, which was more of a passion project. But of course, you know, didn’t necessarily elude me into kind of a specific career working in British museum or on an archaeological site in antiquity.

And actually, in hindsight, I think geography would have been more of my passion, because that’s ultimately what’s kind of landed me in this area of transportation and maps and bicycles. Geography was always my kind of first passion.

Carlton Reid 28:04
But you’re a man after my own heart, because I did a degree, that was nothing connected to what I eventually did. And that was religious studies and comparative religion. And I did Hebrew, as well. So I did do a not a classic language, but I did a language that was known to antiquity. I’d say, yeah, we’ve come similar backgrounds. But then you’ve if you look at your career progression, it went very quickly from something that’s completely useless to and affect your career. If I look at your career arc has been certainly tech. So from the very first it was you went from classics, blummin’ heck,, to tech, that’s that’s a leap. And then you’ve carried on that, that that trajectory.

Tom Knights 28:45
Yeah, definitely, I think that kind of, you know, almost juxtaposes the kind of interest in history, but I think a lot of my friends maybe went into, you know, in the early 2000s, like most people kind of found their way going into financial services, I’d always kind of been more interested in the world of tech and technology. And then working my way up through various kind of research firms and kind of people teams in that world of headhunting and kind of early days of, of search, when it comes to kind of jobs and careers. Allow me I suppose just to suppose learn a lot more about the world of tech, and then actually through interviewing people and and candidates and helping people on their search journey. That then opened my eyes into this whole world of kind of software, which again, early 2000s was really interesting, and then tied into that passion for sports and maps and mapping, landed, actually initially at a company when I lived in Hong Kong for five or six years, which was doing event registration for marathons and five K’s and stuff like that, which is obviously very relevant to the Strava world nowadays. But it was when Strava Metro came along and said that they were looking for someone to essentially grow the community on Strava Metro in Europe. It was too good an opportunity not to kind of put my CV forward so

You know, tied into all my passions around mapping and transportation.

Carlton Reid 30:04
And, and getting out there and doing stuff. As in Yes. Being an athlete if you want to use that term.

Tom Knights 30:11
Exactly. And you know, that’s a it’s an interesting point to kind of call up. But essentially the the advice, actually the CEO at the time, who was a gentleman called James, and actually Michael Hogarth, the founder of Strava, they said, The most important thing you can do in this role at Strava Metro is get out there and see bike lanes and infrastructure, or really understand what the kind of partners are doing. So over the last five years, that’s kind of allowed me to get involved and actually see some of these projects. And you know, one of the best moments of the year or certainly at conferences, or events we go to whenever there’s a bike parade, and I’ve never had a bike tour or a technical tour around the cities that you can visit, and you can really start to see the, you know, how those numbers come to life, actually, in the physical world, because, again, we’ve focused a lot on on this talk, we talked a lot about the Embankment. But actually, there’s a whole multitude of examples around the European continent, and also across the world of bike lanes, which we visited and gone. Gosh, that’s really interesting, what innovative design and oh, look at how that impacted this number of people.

Carlton Reid 31:13
Tell me about your day them. So you’ve got somebody flagged out that yes, sometimes travelling around a bit. So what what do you do, Tom, scribe, what you actually do to people who don’t know what you might be doing day to day?

Tom Knights 31:28
I love it. So my biggest kind of responsibility is to grow the awareness of Strava Metro. And obviously, the more people that hear about Metro, hopefully, from listening to this, the more people might go, okay, that’s really interesting. I didn’t know that. So essentially, that’s our, our main focus is to speak to the folks that active travel England through to the city of Paris, and obviously, the, the onset of zoom and online meetings has made that a lot more accessible now, which is great. So as much as I’d love to go visit all these places, a lot of them are done by kind of video conferencing, which is allowed us to scale and obviously tell the story in a kind of much more scalable way. But where possible, I’ll always try and visit partners and learn about what they’re doing on the ground. And then actually, one of the biggest kind of

tasks this time around is to then how do we communicate these back to the Strava community, and then get all these 120 million athletes who are on Strava, to actually learn about these projects that their movement has contributed to, because that’s going to be the power of when they understand that your cycles work, even though it’s providing you with your exercise or your means of transportation. It’s also having a big impact on how, for example, you transport Greater Manchester or Transport for London to building your roads and your cycling. So if it helps with that extra bit of motivation, to get out of bed on a kind of cold January morning to kind of, you know, get cycling or walking to work, then, you know, we’ve done our job.

Carlton Reid 32:57
Isn’t there an argument and I am playing devil’s advocate here a little bit, council employee, a transportation but oh, maybe a councillor could actually use your data, which shows us lots and lots of people using a certain road? At a certain time? Yeah. And you would say,

to a council?

Officer? Well, look, we need to improve this route. Because look, how many cyclists are using it, we need to improve that. So it’s more comfortable besides blah, blah, blah. But, you know, a councillor could use that exact same argument and say, Well, why do we need to improve anything? You’re just telling me there’s loads of cyclists using this road? Great, job done?

Tom Knights 33:44
Well, I think the answer that is the kind of the theory that maybe, you know, a lot of highways and motorways around the world have used, which is what more lanes will fix it. And what did what happens when you get one more loan, we’ll fix it, you get more cars driving? Well, I think the principle for that applies in terms of, if you keep fixing and increasing the number of cycle paths and bike lanes, then you’ll see an increase in even more cyclists on there. So that would be my kind of caveat to say is, you know, the same way that we saw, you know, mass growth of roads and kind of infrastructure around the country, the same way that you could, if you keep investing, you’ll, you’ll see those increases come even more, as well. So it’s just the start. I think this is the kind of the key point. And, you know, this has only really been what I’ve been in the industry for what five or six years intended, specifically around the world of transportation planning. And I’ve, I’ve read your in as another student of history, read your history of bike lanes, and what we’re seeing is nothing new. You know, this obviously happened in the 1920s, as you’ve written about, it’s happened, you know, the early 1950s. And we hope that obviously, this bike boom is going to continue, but we know that the secret to that is obviously infrastructure, but the extra secret sauce and I’m gonna say this with my Strava hat on so apologies is that you know,

other people keep other people motivated. And that’s where Strava comes into it as a motivation machine.

Carlton Reid 35:06
So that game, gamification of it almost. Exactly, which is a good segue, thank you very much into my next question, which will be at the White House. So that’s a that’s a gamification, so, so just tell me exactly I know it’s not UK, but this is a, this is a podcast that goes … it’s very popular in America. So Strava, not Strava Metro, but Strava is working with the White House on something. So just tell us what what you’re doing. And then the gameifacation angle of that?

Tom Knights 35:34
Yeah. So from obviously, my understanding internally of the team that’s been working on that is very similar to other kind of projects or campaigns, or let’s say gamification, or challenges that we would work on this time, though, there’s obviously a social impact cause attached to it, I think what’s happened and from what I understand is that the White House, obviously have a campaign or a kind of cause that they’re looking to mobilise the community on, they had a commercial partner in work, which is, you know, obviously, kind of, I suppose, helping to kind of measure that through the through the wearable side. But the White House is partnering with Strava, to support physical activity, as part of its challenges to end hunger and build healthier communities. Now, as part of the social impact strategy, let’s say the call to action is to raise awareness of that campaign through movement. And obviously, that movement there is on Strava. And it’s very similar to lots of other campaigns that we might work with, from brands, but also also other charities, you know, that might want to also mobilise their community on Strava, through that kind of challenge format.

Carlton Reid 36:38
So that’s a US initiative. Obviously, it’s the White House as in the White House. What other stuff might you be doing UK or maybe even worldwide, similar to that?

Tom Knights 36:50
Well, I think ultimately, it’s if if we’ve done our job, right, and you know, the more people that learn about these challenges for good for social impact, we hope that people will start to see Strava as a platform, where they can actually start to tell their message to what’s a very engaged community. You know, like I say, not every cyclist is on Strava. But we do have, you know, in the UK, again, I’m going to correct myself on every one in seven adults has joined Strava, or something around 15% of the population. So that’s not everyone, but it is a very engaged audience. It’s bonkers, actually. So how many What’s that in millions? Is that like 10 million downloads or something, I will come back with some specific figures. And James can help with that.

On on, on our team, but Yeah, certainly, we obviously are in the millions of users in the UK. And of course, that’s a really engaged community who are using Strava a for their movement, but also then can attach that through a challenge for a social impact campaign, or brand campaign. And again, these challenges are completely optional for people to dive into should they wish to. And I think that’s one of the kind of key things to get at the Strava community, you know, having that say and what they do, and that’s what’s probably kept people coming back stronger over time, is that they get they have a choice in what they can join. And the challenges that the the team in Bristol, who in the UK run those operations for similar to the White House challenge, they do a fantastic job of making sure that there’s some really exciting challenges to come onto the platform and keep people motivated.

Carlton Reid 38:26
So can you now tell me

the different pricing options, so people are like, they’ve got the free version? They maybe like me that don’t.

They will now start using the free version a bit more for the reasons we’ve discussed before. But if you wanted to up the game, what would you be paying? And what would you be getting?

Tom Knights 38:46
So for UK based users, obviously Strava premium is an option and that it costs £8.99 per month, or £54.99 per year. Obviously, there’s a freemium model, in terms of the kind of ability to join Strava and not have to, like, say, necessarily choose to subscribe. But again, the compelling products, and the opportunity that the product team in the US and all the amazing kind of engineers that work on Strava have built an experience that should you wish to subscribe. There’s a really compelling reason to mostly through our amazing routing, mapping discovery tools, looking at new routes to explore. Obviously, like saying you’ve got access to

technical data, should you wish to kind of see things like your heart rate and health and kind of segments and leaderboards, etc. So there’s something on Strava for a lot of folks, and of course, you know, that community element and clubs and groups is really exciting. And another way for local authorities and governments to really drive engagement back to Metro, for example.

Carlton Reid 39:54
And then you got things like integration with fat map so you can like do all sorts of stuff with that as well because it’s

Strava. Did you buy fat map? Is that was that?

Tom Knights 40:02
Yeah, so there was a strategic acquisition of fat map and you know, the the, that’s

the exact date has been going on for the last year. So again, all these amazing tools and some mapping tools are such a good driver for people to discover the world around them. And I think that’s what’s really exciting is that, you know, yes, you might go on a bike ride and you know, kind of cycle from A to B on one of the cycle highways. But at the weekend, that same bike hopefully, is being used to then go, that that route is quite interesting, or I saw my friend do that route. You know, the other day that looks like I could probably do that I’ve got a spare couple of hours. And it’s basically just keeping people active. Again, you’ve probably heard this one for every minute spent on Strava, you can attribute 30 minutes of activity back to your kind of daily life. So rather than that, and that’s because you could you look at heat map, you see, you’re in an unusual destination, you don’t you’re you’re at your bike, and you fire up the heat map. It’s like, everybody’s gone that way. That way, then is that what you mean? Yeah, essentially, you know, like I say, you might, or it might just be on your activity feed that, you know, kind of been suggested a route or suggested a, an area to kind of move through. And I think that’s what’s really exciting is when you get somewhere new, you know that there’s a community, because obviously, we’re a global community that has cycled there before. And I say you can either look at the heat map, or you might be able to see someone’s route. And they’ve recommended it as a kind of place to ride. That inspiration you get from not just

like, say, scrolling through maybe another social network or Doom scrolling, should I say, hopefully, that movement and inspiration of people being active for something that’s going to be a positive driver for people being, you know, engaged on Strava.

Carlton Reid 41:44
There is another active travel analogy, which sometimes gets wheeled out. And that is, you can’t tell

why you need a bridge from the number of people swimming across the river. Because they aren’t going to swim across the river with a bike, they probably aren’t going to swim across the river full stop. But when you put a bridge in it suddenly get, you know, the heat map would go crazy. But once you put the bridge in, so is any of your cleverness your your text, can any of it can I spot? Well, if you only had something here, it would open up, you know, is this something that you can pinpoint that you can say that a bridge analogy can be used?

Tom Knights 42:25
Absolutely. And thank you so much for asking that, because that’s something we just updated last year in our metro product that obviously the planners and the transportation teams can see. And a lot of it ties back into some of the the kind of accessibility transportation equity, environmental racism that we talked about. What we’ve shown is that, when you put a pin on the map, we’ve also been able to kind of draw almost like a kind of circle around what’s accessible within say, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc. And people can see data within that kind of circle, which, again, will show you that where there’s a massive motorway with no bridge crossing, that’s that part of the community can’t access the park on the other side of it, or where there’s, for example, a big brownfield site where there’s been industrial use, it’s not safe to cycle through. So people have kind of diverted around it, we had a really good example, actually, recently in Germany, where, you know, there was a curb on the side of a bike lane. And you could see very clearly actually three desire lines on the on the actual grass and the verge that people were kind of going off this curb through the woods to kind of cut out maybe a mile. And again, using Strava, Metro, this German transportation team who are based in Frankfurt, actually, I’ll share the example with you because it’s fascinating see how even at a really small local level, these little changes can make a massive difference. And they’re not expensive to do, I think it only cost them something a couple of 1000 euros to drop the curb, because they then saw that that was having an impact on where people were then cycling. So you know, the famous analogy of when it snows, you can really see the designs of cars. Actually, when you look at the design on the heat map, and then in turn, look at that on Strava, you can start to see Oh, that’s interesting. And again, another great example that was Hartfordshire county council had a bicycle counsellor in one location. And they realised that the Strava count was actually higher than the bicycle counter. And they thought well hold on what’s happening there. And actually, there was a kind of dangerous crossing just slightly further up from this bicycle counter. And they were able to then use the Strava data to kind of, I suppose understand that actually, people were going this way because it was a safer journey. And that’s the these are the kind of insights that yes, we want to do the big high level projects and you know, make sure that we get new infrastructure and cycleways across major cities. But actually the really exciting ones when local advocacy groups or local councils who don’t necessarily have big budgets for you to accessing data can make these small changes and really improve these kind of everyday life for their community.

Carlton Reid 44:56
Can the Netherlands which obviously every week, look

Up to is like, the absolute nirvana of cycling. Do you like do you have like, Dutch people go, Oh, we could use this. It’s like, Jesus, they even removing even more, you haven’t done so. So basically, can you improve the Dutch cycle network?

Tom Knights 45:15
Yeah, definitely. And actually, we’ve had some interesting conversations with the folks over in Copenhagen, and obviously, in Amsterdam, and across the Netherlands as well. So not just Denmark and Holland. But, of course, the Netherlands is such a stays a bellwether of the cycling industry, but they’re always looking at new ways to improve, you know, the technology that they’re using and counting data. We are in Leuven, just at the end of November for the policy network events. And again, we are understanding that the kind of technical university they are leaving, we’ve been using metro to kind of understand, you know, and this is a really forward thinking Belgium city, which has got great cycle access, but they still need data to understand and counter. So rather than, you know, developing another app to count people, and getting the community to download it, they’ve seen that correlation between actually Strava and Strava, Metro.

So again, they don’t need to necessarily go and kind of reinvent the wheel, so to speak with, you know, building another kind of engagement tool with local community to get them to join, because Metro is hopefully fulfilling that service.

Carlton Reid 46:20
Brilliant, Tom that’s been absolutely fascinating. And we could go on for a good amount of time, probably on Classics literature, even while we discussed, what’s your Roman Empire? Yes, exactly.

But we can’t, because we people just won’t listen to 10 hours of us chatting away.

Tom Knights 46:42
I’m sure they will.

Carlton Reid 46:43
Now, could you tell us where people can find out? I’m sure people know where you can get onto Strava. But how they find out about Strava Metro, and and maybe how they can contact you?

Tom Knights 46:56
Yeah, definitely. So the best way to get in touch with myself and travel metric is on metro.strava.com. And then on that website, you’ll be able to learn more about case studies about how cities how researchers, communities have used the actual kind of practical steps of the data. There’s also some frequently asked questions on there about you know, privacy and how the data is used, etc. And then most importantly, there’s an apply button. So you can click apply for access. And then what we ask is that a you’re a organisation that is involved in working to improve active transportation. If you’re a consultancy, or an engineering firm, we also accept those applications as well. As long as you’re under contract with say, for example, the local government or the city authority, we know that Metro kind of appearing as a line item as it were.

And then, again, like saying, at its source, transportation planners around the world can can access, we ask that you use a work email, not a Gmail email. So normally an org or dot.gov, etc. And then just a short abstract, essentially, of how you’re going to use the data. And so then we know that it’s being used for a positive kind of cause, and then you will give you access to the area of interest that you’ve selected. Be it London, Birmingham, Somerset, wherever it is, as long as there’s been Strava activity, you can start to really start to see trends and patterns, then hopefully feed that into other datasets to build the infrastructure.

Carlton Reid 48:20
And Nick.Ferrari@LBC.co.uk or whatever his email address will just be rejected out of hand, that’s nefarious use?

Tom Knights 48:28
Yeah, I reserve the right not to comment on on LBC and Nick.

Carlton Reid 48:34
Thanks for listening to Episode 349 of the Spokesen podcast brought to you in association with Tern bicycles. Show notes and more can be found at the-spokesmen.com The next episode – 350 – will be out next month. Meanwhile, get out there and ride …

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