CYCLISTS in Glasgow could benefit from "smart lighting" and a new app that can map out the best route between two points depending on whether the user wants to get there quickly, with greater safety or by avoiding hills.

The technology is being developed by Glasgow City Council as part of the £24 million Future City initiative which aims to deliver practical benefits for residents.

Glasgow beat 29 others to win the cash in a UK-wide competition run by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) – the UK Government's innovation agency.

Loading article content

Improving rates of cycling and walking in the city are among the council's key targets for cutting carbon emissions, boosting air quality, and tackling obesity.

Only 2% of journeys made into Glasgow city centre are made by bike, but the project coordinators hope harnessing smartphone technology and social networking will boost the number of people commuting on foot or by bike.

Work is under way on a prototype smartphone app for Glasgow which would enable users to enter a starting point and destination, as well as journey preferences such as finding the quickest route, the flattest one, or one that prioritises off-road routes and segregated cycle lanes.

The developers believe the Active Travel Journey Planner app – which can also be used for walking routes – will help encourage residents to get on their bikes, and are preparing next month to film sample routes using handlebar cameras so people will be able to view their journey on laptops and mobiles before setting off.

They are also looking into using social networks to create a pool of "cycle buddies" so that someone who is nervous about cycling to work for the first time can pair with someone in their area who already travels in the same direction, to help them build up confidence.

The project team – which brings together council employees, scientists, health providers and energy suppliers – have 18 months to show the technology is viable and make the case for further investment to roll it out city-wide.

There are also plans for pilot a stretch of "smart lighting" in late December and early January on an off-road section of the city's cycle routes. Motion sensors would detect an approaching cyclist and increase brightness along the path. The team are still identifying possible routes on which to trial the technology.

A separate MapGlasgow app is also in development. It will ask people to share routes with the council to help planning and infrastructure improvements. At the moment, all the information on cycling in the city is based on the cordon count of cyclists coming in and out, but it doesn't provide any detail on the age or gender of the cyclist or their route.

Developers believe that if the council had a clear idea of the routes cyclists already used it would strengthen the case for more segregated cycle lanes – where cyclists are divided from other road users by a raised kerb along the side of the lane, which is not shared with buses or taxis.

Analysis of the information – which will be open to the public, but anonymous – will be used to influence future spending in the city and determine the measures needed to address issues such as safety and accessibility.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, said: "The council aims to transform Glasgow into a city of active living by encouraging walking and cycling. The active travel project will contribute to that goal through the clever use of technology and by empowering cyclists to contribute their views on the improvements needed to make cycling and walking safer and easier in the city."