Strava, a popular GPS run / ride tracking app, have compiled their data into a beautiful Global Heatmap showing the preferred paths of runners and cyclists around the world.

I, of course, have been taking a zoomed in look at Bristol to see what we can learn.

Here are the cycling and running GPS tracks through central Bristol. Single tracks are thin blue lines then as more tracks stack up on a route you get a thicker blue line and then a red thick line for the most common routes.


Strava Bristol Bikes


Strava Bristol Runners

Here are some interesting features I found:

  • The most common cycling routes are the main thoroughfares of the city – Gloucester Road, the Portway, Coronation Road, the roads round the fountains
  • Runners and cyclists take quite different routes around Leigh Woods!
  • Runners will run around the edge of Queen Square but cyclists almost always cycle diagonally through the middle
  • The lines runners take are a lot more varied than cyclists – cyclists, of course, will be sticking to the cycle paths or left-hand side of roads whereas runners have a bit more freedom
  • There are a lot of people running loops of the Downs

It’s a pretty map and yes we can get some information from it about where cyclists and runners are and aren’t going. Let’s remember that it’s cyclists and runners of a certain type though – those that have a smartphone and are inclined to track their exercise.

It looks like there may be some data quality issues too. There are runners on the M4 for example so there may also be plenty of other people using the app on other forms of transport in “Run” mode. Perhaps Strava could remove running tracks that are exceeding a certain maximum miles per hour to clean out these oddities.

Anyway, it’s quite nice to have a little browse around. You can click on either of the images above to go to Strava’s heatmap page if you want to do your own digging!

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