Datafication of Cycling
: tensions between cycling policy and mobility justice

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis investigates how the “datafication” of cycling and policy can exacerbate the existing mobility injustices associated with the privileging of efficiency and individual freedom over diversity. The thesis synthesises theories of mobility justice and data justice, with critical scholarship from mobilities, critical data studies, and public policy to develop an original understanding of how “datafication” processes are influencing the delivery of cycling policy plans. It makes a transnational comparison of two government departments: Transport for London (TfL) in the UK, and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) in the USA. Data from fitness apps, such as Strava, are being used to evaluate transport planning and cycling-relevant policies at TfL and ODOT. These Strava data generally capture journeys made by younger males for commuting and recreational purposes. Despite some academic interest in exploring the statistical representativeness of Strava Metro samples compared to other data sources such as cycle counters, there are few contributions that have critically reflected upon the applied uses of Strava Metro data within public administrations. In response to this research gap, this thesis critiques the collection and analysis of commercial cycling data such as Strava Metro by transport policy practitioners. Through the analysis of cycling policy plans and of semi-structured interviews with professionals at TfL and ODOT, this thesis argues that whilst cycling is perceived as a sustainable mode of transport, cycling efficiency and speeds are privileged. I thus argue that policy ambitions to support more inclusive cycling are positioned as secondary ambitions to increasing total numbers of cyclists. To move towards more egalitarian and mobility just futures, this thesis demonstrates that cycling policies must address both problems by moving away from measures to increase cycling mode share as their core priority and questioning the use of data. Rather, cycling policy plans should start with an ethical imperative to diversify participation in cycling, which is fundamental to sustainability. Without a re-evaluation of cycling policies and plans, uses of commercial data such as Strava Metro will benefit and unfairly privilege those who are already highly mobile, and who may cycle out of choice, not necessity. As I emphasis throughout, the benefits of more cycling across society are numerous, yet there is no guarantee these will materialise without transformative policy that aligns inclusive cycling provision with data practices that focus on mobility needs and affordances, rather than observable data and estimated demand.
Date of AwardJul 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorLesley Murray (Supervisor), Phil Haynes (Supervisor) & Frauke Behrendt (Supervisor)


  • Datafication
  • Cycling
  • TfL
  • ODOT
  • Strava
  • Mobility justice

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