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21 APR 2023 (FRI) | 11:00-12:00

Cyclists as Intelligent Carriers of Space-time Environmental Information: Crowd-sourced Sensor Data for Local Air Quality Measurement and Mobility Analysis in the Netherlands


Prof. Peter Nijkamp Emeritus Professor in regional and urban economics and in economic geography, VU University, The Netherlands

Dr. Karima Kourtit Assistant-professor at the Open University, Heerlen, The Netherlands


April 21 (Friday) 11:00-12:00 HKT


Social Sciences Chamber, 11/F, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU


In recent years, slow travel modes (walking, cycling) have gained much interest in the context of urban air quality management. This article presents the findings from a novel air quality measurement experiment in the Netherlands, by regarding cyclists as carriers and transmitters of real-world information on fine-grained air quality conditions. Using individual sensors on bicycles—connected to a GPS positioning system—online local pollution information originating from cyclists’ detailed spatial mobility patterns is obtained. Such air quality surface maps and cyclists’ mobility maps are then used to identify whether there are significant differences between the actual route choice and the cyclists’ shortest route choice, so as to identify the implications of poor air quality conditions for their mobility choices. Thus, the article seeks to present both a detailed pollution surface map and the complex space-time mobility patterns of cyclists in a region, on the basis of online quantitative data—at any point in time and space—from bicycle users in a given locality. In addition, the article estimates their response—in terms of route choice—to detailed air-quality information through the use of a novel geoscience-inspired analysis of space-time “big data.” The empirical test of our quantitative modeling approach was carried out for the Greater Utrecht area in the Netherlands. Our findings confirm that spatial concentration of air pollutants have great consequences for bike users’ route choice patterns, especially in the case of non-commuting trips. We also find that cyclists make longer trips on weekends and in the evenings, especially towards parks and natural amenities.


Peter Nijkamp is emeritus Professor in regional and urban economics and in economic geography at the VU University, and associated with The Open University of the Netherlands (OU), Heerlen (The Netherlands), and the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, Iasi (Romania). He has published more than 2000 articles and books in the field of regional development, urban growth, transport and the environment. He is a fellow of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW). He has served as president of the governing board of the Netherlands Research Council (NWO). In 1996, he was awarded the most prestigious scientific prize in the Netherlands, the Spinoza award. He is vice-president of The Regional Science Academy (TRSA) and involved in many international research activities. He was one of the PhD supervisors of Harry Geerlings.

Karima Kourtit is assistant-professor at the Open University, Heerlen, The Netherlands. Her main scientific research is in the field of creative industries, urban development, cultural heritage, digital technology, and strategic performance management. Her academic profile is characterized by a profound involvement in evidence-based urban and spatial research on smart city policy and data metrics, by a strong commitment to educational support to young researchers and by an active role in many international scientific and managerial activities. Furthermore, she has been an editor of several books and a guest editor for many international journals, and has published a wide array of scientific articles, papers, special issues of journals and edited volumes in the field of geography and the spatial sciences. She is also managing director of The Regional Science Academy (TRSA).

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