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CycleStreets blog

News from CycleStreets

Archive for October, 2009

Last day to vote to get OpenStreetMap-based CycleStreets some funding

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

If you have not already voted, and you want to support CycleStreets, please vote today to get CycleStreets some much-needed funding!

Thank you to the very many people who have told us they’ve voted for us. Your votes are much appreciated!

Also, check out our recently-added features page!

Simon, lead developer for CycleStreets, has reached the shortlist for the East Anglian section of the TalkTalk Digital Heroes Digital Heroes awards!

If won, this would be worth £5,000 of much-needed funding for CycleStreets, an OpenStreetMap-based project.

* Please vote for Simon as our ‘Digital Hero’ if you like CycleStreets, and help us get CycleStreets some funding!

If you know others who have used CycleStreets, please do ask them to vote too ( – but obviously please do not spam).

In terms of funding more generally, we can now accept donations, which will help in particular for server costs. If you have any suggestions for grant-funding bodies to which we could apply, we would also be interested to know – do drop us a line.

Thanks to everyone who has given any help with CycleStreets – and indeed OpenStreetMap – so far.

CycleStreets Ltd includes a not-for-profit clause in our governing documents.


Friday, October 16th, 2009

Until now the ‘quietness’ of the suggested routes has been a fairly discrete percentage score.

We’ve add a graphic and some descriptive text that gives a quick overview of how busy a route might be:


The overall quietness of a route depends on how much of the journey is spent on the different types of road. The quietest paths, such as dedicated cycleways score 100%, and busy roads 50% or less. We hope this makes it clearer in helping decide how suitable the suggested route might be for you to ride.

New ‘features’ page on CycleStreets

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

We’ve added a new features page that describes most of the existing functionality of CycleStreets.

Check it out!

We’ll add new stuff to it as the system improves. We’ll probably also add a few tiles on the actual routing engine features – some new aspects of which are being worked on right now.

Balanced routes

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

After about a month in testing we’re today making available a new kind of routing on CycleStreets – namely ‘Balanced routes’.

Regular users of CycleStreets will be familiar with the Fastest and Quietest routes. They represent two extremes of cycle route – one where time is of the essence, and the other which tries to avoid busy roads. Some of the feedback we have received over the 6 months since the national release of CycleStreets has told us that in some cases they are too extreme.

The Fastest route is only interested in how long it takes to ride along each section, and so the routes it suggests often include very busy sections of road. Quietest routes, on the other hand, ignore the time and so they sometimes include long sections that require walking along a footpath.

The new route type provides a good balance between these two extremes.  Both the time taken to ride, and a measure of how busy the roads or paths  can be are included in the calcuation of the Balanced route.

This usually makes the Balanced route the most practical route for everyday cycling. They will only include sections of busy road if there is no known practical alternative. And because walking is slower than cycling they will naturally avoid long sections of footpaths or other areas were a dismount is required.

Showing the new Balanced route (amber colour), alongside the more established Fastest (red) and Quietest (green) routes.

Showing the new Balanced route (amber colour), alongside the more established Fastest (red) and Quietest (green) routes.

The above example is taken from

For some time now, the fastest routes have included the delay (and time-saving)  due to hill climbs and descents. (This is known as the Naismith effect .) The Balanced route will also partially take this effect into account.

The introduction of Balanced route has allowed us to remove the option from the Journey Planning page to ‘Include routes requiring a dismount’. That option (which could be On or Off) is no longer necessary as the Balanced route will use a section requiring a dismount more intelligently, as it balances  the slowness of walking with the quietness of the alternatives.

Elevation Profiles in CycleStreets

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

We’ve added elevation profiles to the route listings. They show how hilly or gentle the suggested routes are likely to be:

Showing the hills on a quiet route from Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London.

Showing the hills on a quiet route from Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London. The summit and lowest points are picked out.

The vertical scale shows the height in feet, and the horizontal scale the distance along the route, in miles.

The vertical scale is usually 300 feet, unless you’ve found a very hilly route, (in which case the shading is a darker green). (If you want metric units, sign in to the site and change the units in My Settings).

The ‘Fastest’ routes now take into account the delay of going uphill and the savings in time of coming downhill. This means that the routes the planner now finds will be a little more smoother than before, (where there are practical alternatives). We’ll be explaining how this works in a forthcoming posting.

CycleStreets: donations welcome!

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

At long last, we can now accept donations!

Donations will help us develop new features, pay for new server equipment to increase the speed of the system, and to improve functionality by paying for non-Free data sources (e.g. the Postcode Address File – see blog posting to follow).

In a month or so we’ll be needing to pay for our server hosting costs, so donations will be useful. We’ve been applying for various small grants to help with this (and are in the running for a funding award – if we get enough votes!) We’re working up to apply for some larger grants also and working on our Local Authority strategy in terms of longer-term sustainability.

A key issue in the longer term for the system will be keeping up improvements to the quality of the routing quality, as well as getting the speed up. This means spending a lot of time on the algorithms, and money on server equipment, as well as making sure we are well-embedded in the cycling community so that we can get feedback – a crucial resource.

As cyclists, we know about the sometimes complex choices that are made on the ground about what direction to take in a cycle route. Details like path widths, traffic issues, surface quality, hills, etc. are all things we are working to factor into the system so that the system mirrors as much as possible the human-decision making processes that go into route choice. Clearly this is complex, hence why CycleStreets doesn’t always get it right (yet!).

We even now take account (where the data exists in OpenStreetMap) of the number of steps on a bridge in the case of areas where a walkable short-cut exists!

Simon has been doing an enormous amount of work on adding new features into our custom routing engine in the last few weeks, and tells me that a torrent of blog posts about these changes will unleashed soon! (He’s currently “in the zone”!)

Donations will give us both financial and moral support so that we can make CycleStreets the leading cycle route-planning service in the UK.

CycleStreets is run on a not-for-profit basis: our company documentation lodged with Companies House when we set up the company in July includes a not-for-profit clause.

Free the postcode

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

CycleStreets doesn’t yet have full postcode searching, though we at least take the first half of an entered postcode to get you to the right area, when doing a namefind search. We are currently using the excellent service from the great guys at Cloudmade.

Unless there is a massive surge of donations (!) we simply don’t have the funds to give Royal Mail £5,450, and if we did have such funds, it’s arguable that paying for faster server equipment would be a better priority.

Royal Mail has a monopoly on the UK postcode set at present. And now, in a real McLibel-style shot-in-the-foot exercise, Royal Mail has served a cease-and-desist order on, a supplier of a public postcode API (programming interface) for community groups. (CycleStreets hasn’t been using Ernest Marples, as they had never stated exactly what their data source is, and we want to stay squeaky-clean in case.)

Royal Mail’s treatment of a not-for-profit is quite expectedly attracting a lot of attention from around the blogosphere:

It’s also gaining parliamentary attention: Tom Watson MP has written a great letter to Royal Mail on the issue of postcode database availability following an earlier blog post he made. (NB CycleStreets does not, and will not, have any party-political affiliation.) It will be interesting to see what Royal Mail comes back with.

Postcodes – and indeed other data related to mapping – needs to be out in the Open.

Cambridge Evening News: Cyclists urged to root for website

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

A WEBSITE based in Cambridge which plans cycle routes anywhere in the country has been shortlisted for a regional award.

CycleStreets was created earlier this year by two cycle-campaigning web developers in Cambridge, building on the success of an earlier system for the city which had planned almost 50,000 journeys.

Cyclists can visit and get options for both the quietest and fastest routes suitable for a range of cycling abilities.

The system is run as a not-for-profit venture.

It is in line for a prize in the TalkTalk Digital Heroes Awards which celebrates the work of people who use digital technology to bring about positive social change.

Members of the public can vote online to select the winner.

Simon Nuttall, creator and lead developer of CycleStreets, is in the shortlist of three people for the East Anglian region.

He said: “Winning the Digital Heroes award for East Anglia would be a great boost after years of complex technical work on the system.

“Cyclists from all over the country are contributing to the website and the ideas that flow from that are helping to make cycling more pleasant. A vote from you makes it all worthwhile.”

Vote at or click on the red Digital Hero button at

Cambridge Evening News, 8th October 2009

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