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Uber’s new mobility heatmaps give insights into micromobility trends in cities

Uber has launched new mobility heatmaps which aggregate micromobility trends, including bike and scooter travel patterns across cities, to give insight on people movement in the backdrop of COVID-19. The heatmap, which is currently available for eight cities — Brussels, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. — will allow city officials, researchers and advocates to better understand how people are moving around is used in their city.  This tool is the latest addition to the Uber Movement datasets which makes aggregated and anonymized mobility data free and publicly available, Uber said in a blog.

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Importance of city mobility trends in COVID-19 times

There is a lot of interest in mobility research as countries struggle to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to monitoring people movement in locations, authorities can also use this data at this time of reduced movement to implement “quick build projects” such as adding new mobility lanes in the coming months.

Uber launched a version of this product as a part of its City Mobility Campaign, which supports legislation that requires new mobility lanes to be added as a part of street repaving projects. We are excited to build upon this initiative by adding the ability to download the New Mobility Heatmap so advocates and city planners can better incorporate this data into their work. Bill Nesper, Executive Director of the American League of Bicyclists, said of the project,

For instance, in a city like San Francisco, where biking activity and bike lane infrastructure are highly correlated throughout, Uber analyzed bike and scooter activity in the city via the new mobility heatmap to understand exact places where micromobility activity is happening relative to bike lanes.

Analysis of bike and scooter activity in San Francisco via the new mobility heatmap to understand where micromobility activity is happening relative to bike lanes. it shows biking activity and bike lane infrastructure are highly correlated throughout the city. One notable exception is along Fisherman’s Wharf, where the bike lane (in green) ends yet, biking activity remains high.
city mobility trends COVID-19
Bike lane infrastructure vs. micromobility usage in San Francisco shows during weekdays, most activity is in the downtown core, presumably for commuting purposes.

In the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, getting into an crowded bus or train with other passengers is no longer a recommended option. Even a taxi or ride-hailing service with a driver could be fraught with risks. In such a situation, biking has emerged as a preferable mode of transportation for people who have to go to work, or have other pressing needs. New York has already seen bike sales booming as citizens logged out of the massively crowded mass transit.

In the coming times, the tool may help authorities in many cities like Amsterdam which either already have existing biking lane infrastructure, or new ones like Calgary or Winnipeg which are now looking at sprucing that up to plan micromobility infrastructure to ensure social distancing once the stringent lockdowns lift and people start going back to work.

Uber has also updated speeds and travel times data for many cities through March 2020. This data is available by time of day and for weekdays or weekends. This heatmap and other datasets are easily usable with the open source visualization toolkit Kepler.gl.

Additionally, for more data and visualization offerings from Uber, one can always check out Uber Movement. Uber Movement works in cities which has services of the cab aggregator major, and over time Uber plans to expand the Movement to include data from many more of those cities.

Uber claims that all data is anonymized and aggregated to ensure no personally identifiable information or user behavior can be surfaced through the Movement tool.

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