Frankenbike assessing the state of Seattle’s bike trails

By Bill Holloway
While vans equipped with specialized measurement devices are used extensively by transportation agencies to assess roadway pavement conditions, the condition of bike trails has not generally received the same level of attention. However, Alta Planning + Design is now using a modified bicycle, termed the “Frankenbike,” to assess bike trail conditions.
The Frankenbike, profiled in this CityLab article, was originally designed by Colin Dietrich to record bike trail safety issues along his commute route. Equipped with a lithium ion battery, accelerometer, sensors, and other electronics, the bike automatically collects some information, such as pavement roughness, and allows the rider to manually input other issues, and records the GPS coordinates of all problem areas. A high school friend working at Alta realized the potential for assessing trail conditions citywide.
The bike, which has been further modified with additional electronics and a tablet computer, is now being used by Alta to assess the quality of trails around Seattle as part of their work on the city’s Trails Upgrade Plan. The goal of the plan is to make bike and pedestrian trails a safer and more appealing way for people to get around.  While the Frankenbike is one of a kind, bringing this sort of sophisticated data-oriented approach to bear on a non-motorized transportation maintenance project may signal a broader shift toward more truly multimodal transportation planning.
Bill Holloway is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.