Saturday, February 25, 2006

City Bike Map

Choosing the right route can make or break a bike commuter. When just starting out, it might take just one perceived close call to discourage a cyclist from trying to use his or her bike for getting around town. This would be very sad and should never happen.

Dave Dash, a cyclist in Minnesota, has created a powerful tool for cyclists all over North America. It uses Google Maps to allow cyclists to create maps of our cities from a cyclist’s point of view. By sharing what we consider to be safe cycling routes, we can help more people with using their bikes and enjoying themselves outside every day.

The way I see this site is not as a replacement of the official city bike path maps. It’s a way to share a safe route that isn’t necessarily obvious to someone who is new to cycling or new to the city. Riding straight down a major street is of course a viable option for an experienced cyclist, but if there’s a fast alternative that avoids lots of turning or fast moving vehicles, then it could be very useful to let others know about it.

Spring is quickly approaching, and with spring will be lots of first time bike commuters. I’m hoping this city bike map site, along with the other project Joe just mentioned, will make a difference for people starting out on their bikes in the next month or two. This is your chance to share your experience and the research you’ve put into the streets of your city.

A couple technical notes: the site is in a state of development, so I’m pretty sure Dave would like to hear if you have particular problems entering routes or using the site. And apparently there are some troubles if you use Internet Explorer as your web browser. If you’re interested in upgrading, you can get Mozilla Firefox here.

Darren J 2/25/2006 01:59:00 PM

4 Comments:

What I've thought would be neat many times is to be able to have a map of Toronto and allow cyclists to be able to add information to it to rate a section of roads suitability for cycling on many criteria - volume of traffic, potholes, width of road, number of lanes, signals vs. stop signs etc. Then a particular user could say I want a route from A to B, enter their experience level and preference for things like bike lanes and avoidance of high volume routes - and the software would come up with a fairly optimal route for them.
That would be very good. I guess that kind of thing could be added to this tool. It doesn't have those capabilities right now, but I don't see why they couldn't be added.

The challenge right now appears to be the complexity of the map and limits with speed.
Oh, the automatic software routing would probably be outside of the scope of this tool. Maybe that would be a good project for one of the other mapping companies to add, since Google is probably killing them right now. Mapquest and Yahoo maps could use some unique features like this, even if they won't make much money off it.
Thanks for mentioning the site. I've been slowly redeveloping it to work a little better. I think the map can quickly get messy if everyone posts their routes to a grocery store or to work, so I'm grouping things into bike paths (e.g. corridors and bike lanes, etc that everyone can take) and bike routes (e.g. the best way to the grocery store from the bank, etc, etc). It's honestly a slow going process, but I'll probably update one of my blogs when something significant happens.

As per Tanya's comments, route rating, etc would be something I'd like to add. There's a whole room for analysis and interaction that this route-system neglects now. As for automatic routing. It's... doable (I've been asked how to do something similar as an interview question), but there's a lot of variables that would need to be calculated. Actually it involves a lot of data that just isn't easily collectable. Like length of stop lights, how easy it is to just run a stop light, etc, etc.

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