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Denver using smart watch data to identify high stress spots for cyclists

MPATH cycling app
Posted at 10:53 PM, Sep 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-27 00:53:21-04

DENVER — The City of Denver has launched a new pilot program to collect data from smart watches in order to identify locations causing cyclists high amounts of discomfort and stress.

The app, called MPATH, will allow cyclists to opt in and submit heart rate data collected from their rides, which will be anonymously compiled by the city. The findings from the pilot study will inform future infrastructure projects, a city spokesperson said.

David Mintzer, a frequent cyclist in Denver, is among those who have already signed up for the program. He told Denver7 he hopes the data will bolster the comments he and other cyclists have been submitting to the city.

“We’ve been telling the city for years where these dangerous streets are, where these dangerous intersections are,” Mintzer said. “Do they really need my heart rate data to confirm that? Maybe. And if it helps the process and helps fix things, I’m all for it.”

This MPATH study is a new part of Denver’s Vision Zero program, which set a mission to eliminate traffic deaths in the city.

Vision Zero program manager Rolf Eisinger said MPATH will employ an algorithm to differentiate between heart rate spikes related to physical exertion and spikes related to stress. That information will then inform infrastructure projects in several ways. First, it will help planners identify locations currently causing cyclists high amounts of stress which may benefit from new infrastructure investments. It will also help planners evaluate which infrastructure projects that are already installed are working best to improve safety and comfort for cyclists.

Eisinger said it brings “innovation” into the city’s evaluation process, and will supplement survey responses, crash data and video to improve infrastructure.

“The projects that we are putting on the ground, are they having the benefits that we had hoped that they would?” Eisinger said. “We want to know that so we can, you know, continue to layer on … safety improvements that ultimately ensure that people feel safe and comfortable on our roadways, no matter which way they choose to travel.”

Eisinger said the city has already collected more than 1,000 recorded rides in the first week of the pilot, and he hopes more cyclists sign up in the days ahead. The study is expected to run for about a month, he said, and the more data that is collected, the more complete the findings will be. Those interested can fill out a questionnaire and sign up on the city’s website.

Mintzer, too, is encouraging other cyclists to sign up and join him.

“The more people who are counted biking, the better,” Mintzer said. “And so if we can submit this data and they see more people are riding bikes, the better it could be.”

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