Predicting and communicating future cycling flows using BRUTUS

4 September 2020

Aiming to become a world-class bicycle province, the Province of Utrecht needed a tool to predict cycling flows. At a conference in Vancouver, Herbert Tiemens, senior policy advisor for cycling innovation and bicycles for the Province of Utrecht, came across Ramboll’s BRUTUS simulation model. The agent-based model delivers detailed predictions of transport modelling, including cycling, and so the Province of Utrecht found it suitable for their project. 




Martijn Hollestelle

Data scientist, Digital Mobility Lab
T: +358 44 7558853

Wanting to make cycling more attractive, the Province of Utrecht needed to improve the existing cycling network. As the cycling network was not dense enough, Tiemens and his team needed a transport model that could analyse all potential streets, focusing on missing links while being easy to use, and the data easy to acquire. This could be achieved through BRUTUS. At the time of the project’s start, data-gathering and processing were challenging due to privacy policy guidelines set by the National Office of Statistics from which the data was obtained. 

If we were to redo the project today, data gathering would take six months rather than three years. It was difficult, but with tracing apps becoming more popular, it’s likewise becoming easier to collect data. This data, however, may need to be expanded to be representative of the population at least to a certain extent, Tiemens explains.

Improving transport networks most efficiently in terms of costs and long-term solutions is a complex task. In the case of the Province of Utrecht that meant identifying missing cycling links in the existing network by analysing different simulated scenarios of the local circumstances. For example, by determining if expensive constructions like bridges and tunnels were necessary in connecting the cities. The simulations gave Tiemens and his team an economic and effect-based understanding of potential solutions. In this, BRUTUS excels. The easy-to-use interface strengthens the communication of ideas between engineers and non-engineers, planners and other colleagues with no engineering background.

The BRUTUS-model delivers rich and easily communicative insights into cycling modelling on regional and local levels. The user-friendly interface provided us with good forecasts whose accuracy was rather impressive considering the limited counting values needed. What really stood out to me was the model’s detailed focus on cycling and the option to compare different scenarios and analyse possible interventions in the network like finding missing links and route finding, Tiemens says.  

With its unique focus on cycling, BRUTUS excels in an area where other transport models do not. For instance, the model was used in the evaluation of infrastructure projects e.g. designing bicycle streets, cycling network/priority analyses as well as in analyses of effects of future land use scenarios. By simulating preferences for everyone, the model captures smaller trips convincingly on a detailed and individual level. According to Tiemens, this aspect enhanced and secured an easy internal communication between everyone working with the model, resulting in efficient time-management, budget planning and improvement of the bicycle-friendliness of the province.  

Find out more about BRUTUS modelling tool here.


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