Can-BICS/ English

Mapping bicycle facilities across Canada 

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Finding good data on bicycling infrastructure nationally, or even across multiple cities, is a challenge. To better understand how supportive Canadian cities are for cycling, measure change over time, and inform future infrastructure projects, we need a detailed and nationally consistent map. 

Thus, we developed the Canadian Bikeway Comfort and Safety Classification system (Can-BICS) with high, medium, and low comfort facilities (refer to Figure 1 below), and applied this to open data sources to classify and map all bicycle infrastructure across Canada.

Explore the map and access here.

Open Street Maps (OSM) Can-BICS: a national map of bicycle infrastructure

Through our classification work, we identified nearly 23,000 km of bicycle infrastructure across Canada that meet Can-BICS standards. Multi-use paths were the most common infrastructure type by length (11,901 km; 16.6%), followed by painted bike lanes (7,926 km; 11.0%), and then high comfort infrastructure (cycle tracks: 1,740 km; local street bikeways: 1,318 km; and bike paths: 98 km) (4.3%). We also identified an additional 48,953 km of bicycle infrastructure that did not meet Can-BICS standards (e.g., “non-conforming”, see below): this may have included routes like gravel paths, sharrows, or signed residential streets with traffic calming. 

Explore the map here. This national map data can also be used to quantify the amount of infrastructure in different communities.

We have also developed an interactive tool to look at communities (population >5,000) in BC. The tool allows you to look at total length of bicycle infrastructure, or distance per area, or per capita, depending on the relevant comparator. 

Creating Can-BICS area-level metrics of the cycling environment

As a next step, we constructed area-level metrics of the cycling environment for all 56,589 Dissemination Areas (DAs, Statistics Canada geographic areas with 400-700 people), based on the quantity and quality cycling infrastructure. Two types of metrics – continuous and categorical – were developed. The Can-BICS continuous metric uses the total amount of cycling infrastructure per square kilometre weighted by Can-BICS comfort class (see Figure 1 below). A categorical metric was also developed for easier visualization and comparison. The categorical metric assigns each DA into one of five categories with Category 1 being the lowest level of infrastructure and Category 5 the highest. 

These Can-BICS metrics provide national measures of cycling infrastructure that can be used for research, advocacy, or practice. We anticipate these metrics can be used in analyses for public health surveillance,  transportation planning, or social equity analyses, through linkages to other datasets (e.g., census data, health surveys, or municipal origin-destination surveys). The Can-BICS metrics can be seen as companion measures to the Canadian Active Living Environment measures (Can-ALE) which capture walkability and transit. 

Please see the publication detailing the Can-BICS metrics methodology here

How did we build the map? 

To build the map we needed consistent bicycle infrastructure data from across Canada. Many cities have open data portals of their bicycle infrastructure, but not all. Furthermore, cities use different terms for the same facilities making national comparisons tricky. Instead we used OpenStreetMap (OSM) – a crowdsourced map of the world. We know from earlier research that there is good agreement between cities’ bicycle infrastructure data and OSM. We developed algorithms to apply the Can-BICS classification to OSM data to create an up-to-date and extensive map of bicycle facilities across Canada using nomenclature that reflects safety and comfort priorities. We completed ground-truthing of the data using aerial and ground-level imagery at over 2,168 locations in 15 test cities. We also met with city planners and GIS staff from six different Canadian cities to discuss how our dataset compared to their local open data. Discrepancies are best adjusted by updating the OSM map directly and there are directions in this blog post

The Canadian Bikeway Comfort and Safety (Can-BICS) Classification System

Not all bicycle facilities are created equal! The Canadian Bikeway Comfort and Safety (Can-BICS) Classification System provides a framework and common nomenclature that was used in creating the national dataset and metrics. Can-BICS is based on transportation engineering design guides and health research on cycling safety and preference. Can-BICS is a classification system of five bicycling infrastructure types assigned to three categories: high, medium, and low comfort, based on the facility’s contribution to user safety and comfort while bicycling (See Figure 1). Facilities that do not meet minimum Can-BICS standards (e.g., unpaved multi-use trails, shared lanes on major roads without traffic calming) are considered “non-conforming”.

Figure 1: The Canadian Bikeway Comfort and Safety (Can-BICS) Classification System

KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTS

For more detail and guidance on the Can-BICS Classification System:

  • Report: The Canadian Bikeway Comfort and Safety (Can-BICS) Classification System:
    A Proposal for Developing Common Naming Conventions for Cycling Infrastructure, March 2019.
  • Can-BICS Cycling Infrastructure Classification Guide: Based on user feedback, the classification of cycling facilities may require guidance not published in the Can-BICS report. To this end, we developed supplementary guidance.
  • Poster: Presented at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, January 2020.
  • Publication: Winters, M., Zanotto, M., & Butler, G. (2020). The Canadian Bikeway Comfort and Safety (Can-BICS) Classification System: a common naming convention for cycling infrastructure. Health Promotion & Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada: Research, Policy & Practice40(9).
  • Pre-Print Publication: Ferster, C., Nelson, T., Manaugh, K., Beairsto, J., Laberee, K., Winters, M. (2022) Developing a national dataset of bicycle infrastructure for Canada using open data sources. SSRN.
  • Federated Research Data Repository: Access open data and facility names.

Can-BICS National Data

  • GitHub: Code to classify OpenStreetMap data in Canada according to Can-BICS comfort and infrastructure type labels.
  • ArcGIS Online: National datasets are available here.

PARTNERS & FUNDING

Current work has been funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2020-2021) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (2020-2023). Co-Investigators include Dr. Kevin Manaugh (McGill University) and Dr. Trisalyn Nelson (University of California Santa Barbara). Development of the classification system was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada and completed in 2019.