Iowa Data Bike

The Iowa Data Bike is an 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 generates a score for the roughness condition of trails. The Data Bike also collects 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 roughness conditions, and then to collect pavement roughness 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 imagery for all of the trails in the region using a GoPro Max 360 camera as well as collecting geolocated imagery of trail pavement using a GoPro Hero camera.

Central Iowa Trail Roughness Reports

360 Imagery on Google Street View

360 Video on YouTube

Other Data Bike Projects

Iowa Data Bike in Media


 The Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) acts as a regional forum to ensure coordination between the public and local, state, and federal agencies in regard to planning issues and to prepare transportation plans and programs. The MPO develops both long- and short-range multimodal transportation plans, selects and approves projects for federal funding based upon regional priorities, and develops methods to reduce traffic congestion.
 Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) is a nonprofit conservation group that works with private landowners and other partners to protect Iowa’s land, water and wildlife. Since its founding in 1979, INHF has helped protect more than 150,000 acres of Iowa’s wild places and establish more than 800 miles of trails.
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) works with non-profit organizations, health care providers, policymakers, businesses, and many others to protect and improve the health of Iowans. Public health strives to improve the quality of life for all Iowans by assuring access to quality population-based health services related to the following goals: promoting healthy living; preventing injuries and violence; strengthening the health infrastructure; protecting against environmental hazards; preventing epidemics and the spread of disease; and preparing for, responding to, and recovering from emergencies.