Iowa Data Bike


The Iowa Data Bike is a proof-of-concept initiative by the Des Moines Area MPO in partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Using an app that senses the roughness of pavement, the Data Bike will generate data scoring the condition of trails. The Data Bike will also collect 360-degree imagery along trails for Google Street View.


Central Iowa is home to more than 600 miles of trails connecting urban centers to rural and natural landscapes, providing recreational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors every year. The network of paved trails is starting to mature, and soon local governments will have to shift their spending priorities to focus on the maintenance of existing trails.

Unlike the street network, for which pavement-condition data are regularly collected, there are no pavement-condition data being collected for the paved trail network. Nor is there a means for collecting trail pavement-condition data, as the equipment used on roadways is too large and requires too high of speeds to be used on trails.


The objective of the Iowa Data Bike project is to develop a bike-based data-collection vehicle, using an electric-assist bicycle, an iPhone, and an iPhone app designed to detect pavement conditions, and then to collect pavement-condition data for all paved trails within Central Iowa for the use of the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and its and member cities and counties, as well as partner organizations such as the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. This data will help inform a long-term maintenance strategy for Central Iowa’s trail network.

In addition to collecting pavement-condition data, the Iowa Data Bike will be used for other valuable purposes to benefit the users of the trail system, as well as the government and nonprofit entities that maintain them. These include collecting Google Street View images for all of the trails in the region using a Samsung Gear 360, as well as collecting geocoded imagery of trail conditions using a GoPro camera.


The Des Moines Area MPO would like to thank the generous sponsors who helped make the Iowa Data Bike project feasible.