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CycleStreets blog

News from CycleStreets

Archive for January, 2011

CycleStreets discussed in Parliament

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Friday 21st January 2011 saw a short Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on the subject of "Cycling in England". A question was raised as to the government's support for use of tax money (£2.4 million) on the TransportDirect cycle journey planner when CycleStreets (£28.1k spent) already exists.

This debate on cycling was secured by Julian Huppert MP, a long-standing supporter of cycling. His excellent speech covered a range of issues – many of which are raised by contributors to our Photomap – such as the issue of poor signing of contraflow streets, parking in cycle lanes and pavement parking, lack of cycle parking at stations and much more.

The MP ended his speech with this question:

"If I may finish on a suitably austere note: Other cycling enthusiasts have noticed, that the Government, in its Sustainable Transport White Paper, plans to spend more money on developing its own cycle journey planner. In the spirit, perhaps of the Big Society, could I point the Minister and her Department to the CycleStreets website, which already provides such a service, reliably and efficiently, and without requiring millions of pounds of government subsidy. The website was developed by two of my constituents, both avid cyclists, very much involved with the excellent Cambridge Cycling Campaign, and it cost a total of around £40,000 to cover the whole country. I hope the minister will consider the value for money of supporting and utilising their work, rather than inventing a new wheel. I look forward to her comments. Thank you."

— Julian Huppert MP

The Minister of State for Transport, Theresa Villiers MP responded, towards the end of her speech:

"My Honourable Friend for Cambridge concluded his remarks by expressing a degree of concern about the DfT developing its own cycle journey planner when websites, very good websites like CycleStreets, are already available. Well, I think, given the importance of this issue there is room for government action in this area to complement the websites provided by the private sector, particularly with our focus on giving novice cyclists the information they need to encourage them to go out cycling, so they've got the confidence that they can identify, able to identify, the easier and the safer routes."

— Theresa Villiers MP

[Actually, only £28.1k has been spent (compared to £2.4m allocated to TransportDirect) and of course the project depends on the excellent work of OpenStreetMap mappers. Also note that CycleStreets is a not-for-profit project.]

You can watch video of these two speeches online:

[Watch the video online]

 

[Watch the video online]

Screenshots from www.parliamentlive.tv

Routing quality work

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Here's a view of the latest work in progress to improve the quality of the routes offered. It shows the routemaster's view of the cycling network of South London.

The screenshot is from one of a range of back-end tools which help us work on the complex task of debugging the routing engine.

The yellow colour roads are mostly residential with quietness of around 80 – 90%. The green are 100% and the red around 70%. Busier roads are blue or grey, and trunk roads are not shown at all.

The green routes form a (rather sparse) cell-like grid which is very quiet for cycling. This is an alternative to the blue / grey grid, which is relatively hostile to cycling.

This map has been generated from our work to make greater use of the tagging schemes in OSM to provide better data for cycling routes. We are now taking into account the implied tags from the OSM wiki pages, and adding our own inferences. This is resulting in a wider vocabulary for defining routing quality than the earlier system which was based on a limited set of 'provision' types.

Integrated map editor now available

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Thanks to the brilliant work of Andy Allan, Richard Fairhurst, Tom Hughes, Dave Stubbs, Matt Amos and others, who have worked on OpenStreetMap's new 'Potlatch 2' editor, we've now been able to add an integrated data editor to the CycleStreets site.

Just go to www.cyclestreets.net/edit and you can fix up and add map data directly!

We'll be customising the installation and integrating it more with existing pages and tools within the CycleStreets website in coming weeks.

Editing example

Changes you make to the data go into the OpenStreetMap database directly. We then import that data every week or so.

(In other words, changes you make via our editing page don't reflect the routing immediately, but take up to a week. We're working to reduce that down, ideally towards a daily import now that we have more powerful server hardware thanks to your donations and some grants!)

Editor main screen

The work to integrate Potlatch 2 into the site was extremely easy – it's clear that Andy et al have worked very hard to make that as simple as possible. (In fact, it was refreshing to find that integrating an external piece of software was straightforward rather than the usual problematic task it can often be!)

We'd also like to thank Tom Chance, whose excellent introductory guides we adapted, with his kind permission.

Editing guide

For The Win!
#p2ftw

Routing engine work in progress

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Over the last month or two we've been working heavily to rewrite the way the system imports and interprets OpenStreetMap data. This work is intended mainly to make the system give better routes, but also to make things clearer for OpenStreetMap mappers as to how we interpret the data, as well as make the code easier to maintain.

Routing work is complex and time-consuming. As such it's an area which our Funding Drive is aimed to help with – with full-time developers we could make improvements like this much more quickly and stay at the vanguard of cycle routing.

Below are two screenshots showing this work in progress. The first shows the router as it currently is, with the green/quiet route (most relevant to signed routes) not fully sticking to a signed cycle route (in blue) in the West Sussex area. The second image, from revision 5483 of the engine, shows how it is sticking to the signed route almost perfectly. (Note that this code is not released yet.)

Before (current site):

Routing engine in development (revision 5483):

We'll also be publishing soon a clearer guide for OpenStreetMap people on how we interpret the data tags and which of the more advanced tags we currently take account of and which we plan to take account of soon.

The latest work should also address some of the issues we have seen regarding routing over poorly-surfaced routes, where the data exists in OpenStreetMap. Importantly, support for these and other advanced tags will also encourage people to go and collect the data, benefiting other OSM data users too.

CycleStreets: Our Story – presentation to Net2Camb event

Friday, January 14th, 2011

We really enjoyed the January Net2Camb Meetup event, where one of our lead developers, Martin, gave a talk 'Our Story'. Thanks to Claire for organising the event and everyone who came!

It was particularly enjoyable as it was a rare opportunity to talk about the business and competition aspects of CycleStreets, about the challenges we face, and the future opportunities for the project.

We were also pleased that a couple of people came forward as new volunteers!

Here is our presentation [link]:

 

 

 

 

View more presentations from CycleStreets.

Design/usability improvements

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Over the last month or so we've rolled out a range of usability-orientated design improvements to the Journey Planner and the Photomap. We'd like to do much more, but funding has not yet permitted this (see our funding drive).

These improvements complete the areas covered by our Sustainable City Grant, which funded a range of improvements that we have reported on via this blog over the last year. We'd like to thank them again for their support, which many users have benefited from.

If you can volunteer your time to help with further design work, do let us know!

Journey planner

The route result page should be much clearer now:

Journey planner page

The first thing we changed was to make it much clearer, in various ways, that there were a set of route choices available, one of the primary features of our route planner distinguishing it from more traditional car routing websites. This is an innovation we pioneered back in 2006, and is a concept now being used by other sites.

Secondly, we've made the map as large as we can fit for the current site width. We've had a lot of feedback about the size of the map panel, and would like to increase this still further with more radical changes to the design. We plan to move to a more fluid width design when funding or volunteer time permits (do let us know if you can help with design work).

A further key change has been to clean up the mish-mash of metadata about the route into a more easily-scannable and attractive set of information about the routing.

The CO2 saving compared to an equivalent car route is also now shown, again thanks to the Sustainable City grant.

Photomap

The Photomap browsing page now uses a much wider size, with mini bubbles enabling quicker previewing of photos:

Photomap page

The image location page has been redesigned to show off the image much better (at size 640px), and move the less important details of the image to be less distracting.

We hope to add photo commenting soon.

Location page

Implementation

Many of these changes took a while to implement as there were a lot of knock-on code changes (the area of the code concerned had become rather 'evolved', so to speak!).

We hope you like the changes and will find they make the system easier to use. We will add more changes as time and funding allow.

Run a listings site? Add automatic ‘Cycle there’ links!

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Plings

Plings is a great site helping young people (13-19 yr olds) discover amazing activities and inspiration.

They've added a great new feature to their site, which adds automatic but customised 'Cycle there' links to every one of their listings! (And of course, young people are exactly the kind of people we want to see getting on their bikes more!)

If you run a listings site of any kind, it's really simple to add this to your site too!

Just make your page generate a link like this:

http://www.cyclestreets.net/journey/to/M45+7PB/

or, if you optionally have a building/street name, like this:

http://www.cyclestreets.net/journey/to/ + Postcode (URL encoded) + / + Name (optional, URL encoded) + /

If your site uses the language PHP, this would be as follows, using $postcode and $placename as your content values:

<?php

// Cycle there link (to CycleStreets) - with postcode and place name shown when the user gets to CycleStreets site
echo '<p><a href="http://www.cyclestreets.net/journey/to/' . urlencode (strtolower ($postcode)) . '/' . urlencode (urlencode ($placename)) . '/">Cycle there (CycleStreets)</a></p>';

// or:

// Cycle there link (to CycleStreets) - with postcode shown when the user gets to CycleStreets site
echo '<p><a href="http://www.cyclestreets.net/journey/to/' . urlencode (strtolower ($postcode)) . '/">Cycle there (CycleStreets)</a></p>';

?>

The result is a nice, user-friendly page with the destination already filled in!

Journey to ... example

If you have any other kind of website, e.g. one for your organisation, you can also make a 'cycle to us' link or badge for its contact page – read more.

Link box

A month in words

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Created using Wordle!

A year of photos from CycleStreets

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

CycleStreets, the cycle journey planning people, will this year be publishing a photo a day – from the CycleStreets Photomap containing over 25,000 cycling-related photos submitted by our users.

Either by checking the front page of the site, or by following the @CycleStreets channel on Twitter, people will get our selection of the best photo taken that day in previous years.

The CycleStreets Photomap is a brilliant resource for cycle campaigners – and one which people can contribute to, either via the website or via the CycleStreets iPhone app (Android and mobile HTML versions are being worked on too).

As well as a range of quirky, interesting and unusual pictures, there are masses of pictures of good and bad infrastructure that campaigning groups around the country will find useful. Groups like Cambridge Cycling Campaign have often found the resource immensely useful, as it has enabled examples of best practice to be shared, and evidence of problems to be published so that they can be drawn to the attention of the authorities.

Martin, one of the people developing the CycleStreets site, said:

"We hope to surprise people daily with a range of interesting, useful and sometimes downright quirky images. Tune in to our twitter channel to discover something new each day. And if you're quick, photos added on the day may get picked as the best one."

All the pictures have been contributed by users of the site – and naturally they retain rights to the photos, though many are public domain or Share-Alike, making them re-usable for fellow campaigners. To add a photo, just click on the link at www.cyclestreets.net/photomap and upload away! Photos can also be imported from Flickr, and the CycleStreets iPhone app lets you upload on-street when you come across a problem needing fixing – or something unusual.

CycleStreets is also seeking funding through our Funding Drive to improve the Photomap to make it as useful and user-friendly as possible.

Here's a selection of photos from the Photomap. Check our front page or tune into our Twitter channel for a new one each day!

The Netherlands shows us how cycle infrastructure should be done

Beauty and the bike

Shameful unloading – in a busy contraflow cycle lane

Boris Bikes about to be redistributed from Waterloo

Newcastle Millennium Bridge

Cycle-powered advertising in Canelones, Uruguay

Hopeless wheelbender parking

5 bikes to 1 stand here!

Click on each photo to view details and attribution

‘Get Pedalling’ with CycleStreets – says Cycle Cambridge

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Cycle Cambridge, the cycling section of Cambridgeshire County Council has issued a great new edition of its 'Get Pedalling' publication (Autumn/Winter 2010/11 issue).

It features CycleStreets and our iPhone app, alongside updates on cycling schemes in Cambridgeshire.

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

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