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News from CycleStreets

Archive for March, 2009

Loads of feedback already

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

In the first week since CycleStreets has gone live we have received over 100 items of feedback from users.

Most of the replies have been concerned with the quality of the routes produced by the Journey Planner. While some people were highly satisfied with the routes generated there were more complaints about the routes being very strange. Most of the dissatisfaction  seems to be with route planning in hilly areas, and where the base maps we are using are incomplete. Most of the satisfaction with the planned routes lies in the built up areas where the map data is much more complete.

We are responding to this feedback as quickly as we can. We have already made several changes, for instance to improve the searching for addresses and postcodes. We have also got a way of marking routes as having known problems that we acknowledge need fixing.

CycleStreets has ‘grown up’ in Cambridge which is flat and urban, and initially those are the types of route that it will handle best. In Cambridge, where we once had a ban on cycling in the centre of the city, there are a few places where it is quicker to get off your bike and walk a short stretch and remount. This is why on the Journey Planner page there is an option to ‘Include routes requiring a dismount’. Now we have gone national we have discovered that using this setting means that the route planner is too eager to include footpaths in the route listing. We are going to review this option and hopefully make the way it handles it a bit more intelligent so that for instance it will allow one or two dismounts on a route rather than either none or  very many.

Our basemaps are provided by a comminuty project known as openstreetmap.org. In most large urban areas of the country their data is complete and up to date. With a few exceptions, their maps are more likely to be complete where there is a large population and so this means that rural locations are sometimes have rather bare maps. So for the time being we can’t pretend to offer good routing in these areas. Currently we don’t have an automatic way of acknowledging this in our system.

We have had a very warm response to the look of the website and how easy it is to plan a route. We have had to make only a few changes to make sure the system works on as wide a set of computers and operating systems as possible, and we’ve already had several requests for a mobile ‘phone version.  It is also satisfying to have new contributors to our Photomap which will hopefully will transform it from a Cambridge focussed to more national system.

“That’s a really odd route”

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

We fully expected on going live that the system would result in some odd routes. This is because the underlying mapping data that we use is not yet perfect.

Many of the cases are where what appears as a junction on the visual representation of the map doesn’t actually join up correctly. When that happens, the system can’t therefore plan a route. Here’s an example, from our debugging system. It displays a part of journey #50166.

Notice the two red dots either side of the main road. So we will report this to OpenStreetMap so that the data can be fixed up, resulting in a nice sensible route afterwards.

Feedback to point out obviously silly routes like this are really useful to us. Please do give feedback on any problems on a route you find.

50166-nodecheck

Initial feedback

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

E-mail has been mad today on the first full working day after Friday afternoon’s go live.

Lots of positive feedback has been flowing in but also several comments about unexpected routes being generated.

In particular the Journey Planner does not yet understand hills, so it doesn’t mind sending you up a long hill on a quiet road if that seems a lot quieter than a shorter section of flat road. We have got plans to take account of this, but as the system grew up in Cambridge which is very flat its not found its way into this inital release.

The other main feedback about routing has been that it does unexpected things. This is mostly because the map data for an area is incomplete. We know data for Cambridge is excellent, and also very good for London, but other areas like Oxford are only just getting filled in to the required level of detail by the OpenStreetMap.org (OSM) project.

The system is also not yet making full use of all the tags in the OSM data – e.g. where some one-way streets are two -way for cycling. I thought I’d done this but its not picking up some cases so I shall have to look again.

We’ve had some reports saying that the routes the system is generating are exactly what people are already using and that is very pleasing. But we do know that hills, traffic lights and banned turns are all priorities for improving the routing system.

Welcome to CycleStreets!

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Welcome to CycleStreets – national Journey Planner and Photomap for the UK.

This is our beta launch, to get feedback from the cycling community before an ‘official launch’. Let us know your views via the feedback page!

We’ll be staying a little bit quiet for a few months while we’re in beta, so we can fix up any problems that arise and add missing features ..

We welcome your feedback, especially to report bugs or give us route feedback.

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