Transport for a Healthier Bristol

The lowdown from our last hackathon

Last weekend saw the latest in our series of Bristol API hackathons, hosted alongside Connecting Bristol.

We managed to round up a bunch of the area’s brightest minds and put them to work with the challenge of using open data to solve local issues in creative ways.

We kicked things off bright and early at our scenic riverside venue with a rundown of the Bristol API and its capabilities. After that, everyone found their teammates and it was down to work with lots of discussions and sketches.

If there’s one thing that was going to take tear these bright minds away from their projects, it was pizza. Initially worried we’d ordered way too much, we were very quickly proven wrong!

After lunch, with the finish line looming, it was heads down in the final sprint before presenting. Against all odds, we managed to get a full house of presentations ready to deliver at the end of the day.

Here’s a rundown of what everyone came up with:


The Projects

FitCity was a prototype app with the aim of encouraging sustainable transport and exercise.

Users would represent their local area and compete for the top spot on the leaderboard by ditching cars and cabs in favor of walking, cycling, and public transport. The greener the mode of transport, the more points a user would get.

Daily goals would encourage players to get off the bus one stop earlier or take a stroll through local scenery instead of jumping in a car.

The benefits of the app weren’t just for the players, though. Collecting data would allow the devs to identify fit and unfit areas and drill down into why people from certain areas are less likely to use sustainable modes of transport, which could affect policy going forward.

We then heard from Team Efficace, whose project involved crunching the numbers on vehicle emissions and determining whether buses were as clean compared to cars as they claim to be.

Buses allegedly spend most of their time empty or with very few passengers. It was calculated that for some journeys in Bristol, a Euro 3 standard bus can output 16 times more NOx than a diesel car.

While a claim that a car is greener than a bus in some circumstances might ruffle a few feathers in the SusTrans industry, it made a very good case for demand-responsive bus transport. It could definitely benefit the environment to adjust vehicle sizes depending on demand, instead of having large vehicles on loops throughout the day.

Up next, we had l’Art Bus. A prototype travel companion that showcased local art and music along a route. The team foresaw stale or empty advertising space on buses being repurposed to showcase local artists and taking people’s eyes off of their phones during bus journeys.

Studies have shown that taking time to appreciate art is great for mental relaxation. And with an estimated 1 in 4 people suffering from some form of mental illness, it’s difficult to overstate the potential for positive impact having art displays on public transport.

The team also saw the art as a potential conversation starter for bus passengers. Artists could also be supported by Bristol Pound donations, to support the local economy.

Last to take the stage were Two Men and a GIS Guy who presented a visualization of commuter patterns in the ward various wards of Bristol.

They determined how many people commuted by car into or through each ward in each cardinal direction, but the bulk of their focus was on what percentage of commuters drove to jobs within the same ward.

The primary aim of the study was to identify hotspots for short-distance (under 5km) commutes by car and theorize as to why more sustainable modes of transport aren’t used instead. Avonmouth stood out as an area where a large proportion of the population drives less than 500m to work.

The implication of this was that councils should dedicate more time to understanding potential transport-related issues in locations outside of the city center.The


The Results

The judges had their work cut out for them. All four projects applied novel approaches to unique issues and made good use of open data in their approaches. But in the end, a decision had to be made:

The day’s runners-up were l’Art Bus.

They made extensive use of the Bristol API and put it towards aiding a cause that was at the forefront of a lot of minds so close to Mental Health Awareness Day. There’s the potential for a lot of funding in the area, it would be great to see the project developed further.

We’re very pleased to announce that the first place prize of the day went to Two Men and a GIS Guy.

The trio put together a very detailed and well-thought-through presentation on how the information on commuter routes could be used by councils to improve sustainable transport links in out-of-town areas.


And with that, it’s time to call it a day on another successful hackathon. Look forward to seeing you at the next one in the new year!