Advanced Search

Please click here to take a brief survey

Trip Planning For Cyclists: Coming Soon to the US?
Julia Levitt, 28 Jul 09

Elly Blue at posted a thoughtful article this morning about "chasing the dream of online bike route planning."

Easy mapping for drivers is old news; increasingly, "walkshed technologies" are making walking or taking transit a stress-free experience. But people who want similar tools for cyclists face a steep barrier to entry in the U.S.: a major lack of data about where it's safe to bike. Right now, the bike route-mapping scene is dominated by a handful of startups and software-savvy trailblazers, and even mapping standby Google refers cyclists to wiki-style resource OpenStreetMap:

But the data available is only as good as what has been uploaded — and in many places in this country, bike route data simply doesn’t exist. [Aaron] Antrim says he would love to see the League of American Bicyclists make map data a consideration in their Bicycle Friendly Community awards program. In the meantime, OSM is often updated through company-hosted mapping parties (Chris Smith recently wrote in PortlandTransport about attending one of these). OSM also makes software available that shows undocumented streets so that intrepid users can fill in the blanks.
Another problem with bike map data, according to Antrim, is that there is no universal classification for bike routes. The European Union has a standard classification, but in the United States it’s still a free for all. A “bike boulevard” in one city might be called a “bikeway” or a “low traffic street” in another. There are standard classifications, but as Antrim says “there are many variables in what goes into making a facility, so classifying that is a challenge.”

Bikers can't easily use the same routes that online mapping tools provide for cars. Cyclists need to be sure that their planned route won't lead them by surprise to a highway or dangerous arterial, and customizing the routes manually can take quite a bit of manipulation:

Planning a bike route with Google Maps from jason Stein on Vimeo.

Blue spotlights several emerging resources with strong prospects, including Portland-based, NYC's Ride the City, and Atlanta's multi-modal A-Train. And she reports on some rumors that Google might be launching its own tool sometime in the near future.

Raising the profile of cycling as a mode of transportation to rival cars is a worthy pursuit for North American cities, and those working to gather (and standardize) the necessary data are doing terrific (and time-consuming) work. If this is a conversation you're involved in, or that sparks your interest, Blue's piece is worth checking out in full.

Bookmark and Share


There is already a very useful tool that does this to a degree - and it is largely driven by cyclists. Check out - plenty of routes already mapped out, and because they're put there by cyclists, rather than car engineers pretending to think about cyclists, much of the guesswork about what's safe and what's not may have already been taken out of the equation.

Happy cycling:)

Posted by: Michael on 28 Jul 09

Post A Comment

Please note that comments will remain open for only 14 days after the article is posted. While previous comments will remain visible, attempts to post new comments after this period will fail. This helps stop comment spam, so your forebearance is appreciated.

The Worldchanging comments are meant to be used for further exploration and evaluation of the ideas covered in our posts. Please note that, while constructive disagreement is fine, insults and abuse are not, and will result in the comment being deleted and a likely ban from commenting. We will also delete at will and without warning comments we believe are designed to disrupt a conversation rather than contribute to it. In short, we'll kill troll posts.

Finally, please note that comments which simply repost copyrighted works or commercial messages will be summarily deleted.

Yes No







MESSAGE (optional):

Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg