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The Vector project proposes a read/write city sensor system integrating cyclists into a positive feedback loop to improve transport infrastructure through voluntary location tracking, encourage cycling through personal metrics and deepen citizens emotional engagement with their city via publishing of personal experiences.

Vector is a proposal submitted to Living Labs Global for ideas to further integrate cyclists into Copenhagen’s public transport system. The concept was presented and discussed at a workshop in Copenhagen City Hall with industry and municipal representatives for Copenhagen, Daimler-Chrysler and others.

The City of Copenhagen aims to become a zero emissions city by 2025. As part of this initiative Copenhagen aims to integrate cyclists further into an intelligent public transport system. The City of Copenhagen seeks a system which fits the already healthy cycle culture further into an integrated transport solution. Copenhagen seeks to optimise infrastructure, monitor problems & enhance citizens’ experience of the city, creating a system where the bicycle is a seamless component of public transport. We propose to integrate cyclists into a positive feedback loop to improve the system. Above: experience benchmark of urban cycling schemes in Denmark and Germany.

The Vector project proposes free/low cost sensors could be distributed by the city to cyclists. The sensors will be attached to citizens’ bicycles and act as passive read/write sensors transmitting time and location data only. Citizens can easily turn the sensor on or off to preserve privacy. Personally identifiable data will remain personal and private unless voluntarily published by citizens. Only anonymous data in aggregate will be publicly published. A system like Urbiotica’s ‘Urban Operating System’ using bike sensors could provide the hardware and software infrastructure to achieve this. Using sensors citizens can:

  • voluntarily disclose their bicycle locations providing information to improve the system.
  • receive personal metrics on speed, health, savings and carbon footprint.
  • report problems, mark places of interest and publish personal guides to the city using mobile devices or personal computers.

Personal metrics to encourage citizen cycling

Citizens receive personal metrics on speed, health, savings and carbon footprint Research shows the primary reason to cycle is the fastest transport from A to B. An interface on a mobile device or personal computer shows how fast a journey takes day by day, how fast the journey is compared to other modes of transport and compare personal speeds against the city average on routes. The second reason to cycle is for daily exercise. An interface displays calories burned by cycle exercise per day, compares this to recommended exercise for a citizen monitoring health impact of a cycling friendly city. The other key reasons to cycle are to save money and the environment. The interface displays cost of alternative transport modes for same journey, money saved and carbon credit equivalents.

Public municipal counter in Copenhagen records the number of cyclists passing a specific point

Public counter shows number of cyclists crossing a Copenhagen bridge per day

Tracking bike locations to help the city improve infrastructure

Sensor information improves flow and optimizes cycling paths – observing ‘desire lines’ to plan or improve cycling paths, triggering ‘green waves’ based on time and location, providing citizens with aggregate data to ‘tailwind’ the best routes.

The path above was marked out after years as an ‘unofficial route’  as citizens followed a ‘desire-line’.

Citizens disclose their bicycle locations providing information to improve system. Sensors track bikes to improve parking infrastructure and utilization of current resources – identifying areas where parking is scarce for new infrastructure, indicating alternative parking spots to citizens, accepting pre-bookings for bike parking from citizens.

Above: finding a parking spot is difficult near subway stations

Sensors locate missing bikes and identify low security areas, show citizens location of bike for recovery and peace of mind, identify ‘black spots’ where theft is prevalent and provide tools for citizens to report missing bikes early.

Input mechanisms to help citizens report problems, places of interest and personal guides to the city

Citizens can report problems via a mobile or web interface such as uneven paths, poor lighting, generating maps of problems to inform planning infrastructure. This is a similar model to the New York 311 service. Citizens can mark places of ‘interestingness’ to share with friends and visitors publishing these as a ‘vector’ of a personal version of the city. Think a mix of Twitter and Map My Ride. This provides a deeply personal map of a citizens emotional relationship with the city.

Above: a local guide shows curated routes by four Copenhagen citizens with different lifestyles

Published vectors may be followed by citizens and visitors alike – the cycling evangelist’s vector, the foodie vector, the green activist vector, the supermodel vector. Vectors may also be published by city organisations – the Danish design vector, the Lars von Trier vector. Vectors might also be sponsored by brands.


The Vector project was co-developed with Maya Wiseman at Bottled City. Thanks for the input of Michael Colville Andersen at Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Sascha Haselmeyer at Living Labs Global. The feedback on the concept from Adam Greenfield at Urbanscale and Irene Compte at Urbiotica are also greatly valued.