Spokane’s biking and running “heat map”

Spokane's biking infrastructure apparently lags somewhat, with obvious deficiencies on the  north side. (PHOTO: Strava Labs/Google Maps)

Spokane’s biking infrastructure apparently lags somewhat in some critical areas, with obvious deficiencies on the north side and in the City of Spokane Valley. (PHOTO: Strava Labs/Google Maps)


Strava is a GPS tracking system that’s become quite popular amongst runners and cyclists. The app allows users to track their rides or runs and save them for record-keeping. Not content with merely providing a great service to end users, however, the company also anonymizes its data and compiles it in order to create a global “heat map” of its users’  biking and running paths. These paths can tell a surprising story, especially for Spokane.

Above, see the biking heat map for Spokane. Notice the areas where bikers are concentrated; namely, around Riverside State Park, the High Drive Bluff, and Beacon Hill. Notably, downtown seems to attract bikers as well; this could indicate that infrastructure is improving. That said, it’s clear that some critical deficiencies exist in the overall biking system. The north side between the Spokane River, Monroe, Havana, and the Mead area is almost a complete desert. Is this because people just don’t bike in that area, or is it because there is no infrastructure there? Would adding bike lanes in this area increase biking? A similar situation appears to be unfolding in the South Valley area. What could be done to improve utilization to the rates seen on the South Hill and elsewhere? Are there equity issues at play?

See more on running after the break.

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The running/jogging “heat map” from Strava Labs for Spokane tells a similar scenario. A lot of running and jogging on the South Hill; not so much elsewhere. (PHOTO: Strava Labs/Google Maps)

The running “heat map” tells a similar story, only here, the difference is even more stark. Where is the running and jogging around Hillyard? Garland? Shadle? Indian Trail? The entire north side is a sea of nothingness where no one runs or jogs. Meanwhile, the South Hill prospers, and South Valley does surprisingly well. (This would seem to indicate that the bike lanes are an infrastructure problem, not an equity issue.) But in the rest of the city, the story is not pleasant. Is it time for bike/pedestrian paths around the north side? Do we need better education about healthy lifestyles? What do you think? How does this map shock you, as it does us?

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2 thoughts on “Spokane’s biking and running “heat map”

  1. I live and run in the Shadle neighborhood and see plenty of other runners but despite running with a smart phone, I’ve never heard of Strava. I also work downtown and often run there on my lunch break. Can we skip the “northsiders are fat and lazy” theme and admit there are a lot of factors at play here?

  2. Two points, both relating to the source of the data. On the bike side Strava targets active users who have either a smartphone or stand along GPS device. The service also targets performance users looking to compare and compete… ie people with both disposable income and discretionary time for recreation. All of these target audience qualifiers are barriers to entry for people of lower income. As such I don’t believe that the dataset accuratly represents bicycle or pedestrian use in the city… it represents middle to upper end recreational activities on bike and walking. I am willing to wager that very few of the 20″ bikes I see cruising sidewalks on the north side for transportation are not represented here.

    The second point is that Strava is a tool for comparison and competition for most users. Very few people find it interesting or engaging to upload commute data. Thus the dataset is targeted at recreation and not transportation. It’s hard to get good inferences neighborhood accessibility through bike lanes and sidewalks with this in mind.


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