Interested in talking about your motivations and experiences of using CycleStreets?
The Ideas in Transit Project at the University of the West of England Bristol is working with CycleStreets to investigate how and why people use CycleStreets and what they think about it.
They are searching for people to help with their research:
We would like to interview you, the users. It would only take around 40 minutes of your time and we could meet you at your place of work or another suitable location (a library, café, etc.), whatever is easiest for you. We will be offering a £20 voucher for Evans Cycles to each participant as a thank you.
If you are interested in taking part, please contact Tilly at Tilly.Line@uwe.ac.uk.
Today is our second birthday – CycleStreets was launched on 20th March 2009.
The last year has seen a huge amount of development work, leading to new features, speed improvements, and more. However, the next six months will be even busier as the project really ramps up!
In the first year, CycleStreets planned 67,000 routes. In our second year, around 437,000 routes have been planned, and the rate of increase continues to climb. By November we had planned enough routes to cycle to the moon ten times, and in February, we reached the milestone of half a million journeys planned.
A major challenge we faced a year ago was the technical challenge of generating the routes fast enough.
A year ago, CycleStreets used a routing engine written in PHP (!) that we created for the Cambridge-only predecessor of CycleStreets – the Cambridge Cycling Campaign journey planner. It was slow, taking half a minute to plan a route across London, and taking up most of the system resources. Effectively, it was the wrong technology and didn't scale to UK-wide routing.
We held our first Developer Day, which lead to very productive discussions about the routing engine and how we could provide routes to users of the site faster. A friend of the project, George, wrote us a new engine (using Python) which lead to a massive speed-up. Then Robin, another volunteer, took the Python engine and created an even faster version in C++. This has been in place for most of the year and has quietly sat at the heart of the system, planning routes in a few GB of RAM while barely challenging the processor.
The work on the routing engine meant that we have been able continually to increase the maximum planning distance, which is now 200 miles (320km), which is well above a day's cycling! The development version of the system can even now do Dover to Cape Wrath!
Improving the routing speed was a key requirement for mobile apps, several of which signed up to use our routing through the year. These include the leading app for the London cycle hire scheme – London Cycle: Maps & Routes, plus two other excellent 'boris-bike' apps, the briliant and world-first 3D bike satnav app, Bike Hub, BikeRoute for Android and, of course, our own CycleStreets for iPhone app.
Our own iPhone app was made possible thanks to two grants we successfully applied for.
Our Android app is nearing completion, and like the iPhone app is being developed as an open source project. Thanks to our mobile developers for their brilliant work on these.
Through the year we have given various presentations and got involved with various social enterprise -related activities., such as WhereCamp EU, CamTechNet, Cambridge Geek Night and Net2Camb amongst others. These events lead to interesting discussions and also resulted in useful new contacts, such as people helping out with our mobile apps.
It was a particular plesure to give a presentation to Net2Camb as it gave us the opportunity to speak about the challenges faced by us as a not-for-profit social enterprise, rather than purely talking about technical challenges.
We have launched a funding drive for £130k to raise funds for two full-time developers. Such funds would enable the project to move forward much more quickly.
The DfT has this year been collecting cycling data which we are keen to see added to OpenStreetMap. We have since had informal discussions with Cycling England about use of the data, and how conversion of the data might be undertaken and at what cost. Discussions have been positive, and we feel this data would improve the quality of routes that we can deliver to users.
Over the year, more and more governmental bodies have been linking to us. For instance, in April, Cycling Scotland linked to us, and we are keen to work with them to help motivate people to improve OpenStreetMap data in Scotland. Others, including some of the Cycling Demonstration Towns like Chester and Lancaster now link to CycleStreets, and we have just sent a new brochure to councils around England.
Increasing the flexibility of the CycleStreets platform has been an ongoing priority.
The year has also seen a few developments on the Photomap. This is an area we would like to do much more on, as explained in our GeoVation bid for which we have now been shortlisted.
We created, under contract for Cambridgeshire County Council, a site called 'Cycling Sorted' to help manage the shortage of cycle parking in that area. We are keen to create similar sites for other Local Authorities. We have also created a similar system to support the great work of London Cycling Campaign.
OpenStreetMap is the backbone of our project, and we have been pleased to promote OSM and encourage more mapping for it. Over the summer we helped obtain a database of all the bike shops in the UK, for use in OSM, from the Association of Cycle Traders. Much of this has been merged into OSM, but more needs to be done to complete this crowd-sourcing exercise.
CycleStreets' use of open data saw it being featured on the front page of the government's new data website – data.gov.uk.
Routing quality work, however, remains our highest priority. Our aim is to provide the highest quality routing possible for cycling, using our knowledge as cyclists. Various improvements have been made recently, and we are currently working on new routing attributes and reducing the wigglyness of some routes, which is proving a difficult problem to solve with limited hardware resources.
Simon and Martin, lead developers, would like to thank a range of people who have helped out in various ways, such as Andy, Shaun and David from OpenStreetMap, George and Robin for work on the routing engine, huge support from Chris in Edinburgh, George from Camden, our mobile developers – Alan, Neil, Jez, Theodore, Christopher and Jonathan, advice and a free dev server from our brilliant web hosts Mythic Beasts, our designer Ayesha, Jeremy for occasional advice on business matters, support from key individuals at the CTC, LCC and Cycle Nation plus others in our stakeholder group, Carlton and Bike Hub, helpful ideas and data from cycle campaign groups around the UK, and of course the amazing community of OpenStreetMap contributors whose mapping makes everything possible.
Lastly, we would like to thank our users, whose cycling needs provide us with the inspiration to keep going, and who provide us with much feedback and many great ideas.
The proposal is for an extensive suite of tools that will really help cycling campaigners around the UK – people who are already enthused – to be more effective in their work. It will build on the basic reporting facility in our Photomap and its fleldgling categorisation system.
These groups – large and small, national and local, are the people on the ground who work make cycling better. They're already enthused, so we need to give them as much support as possible.
However, there's a way to go yet – firstly we are invited to develop the idea at the GeoVation Camp, 25 – 27 March. The best ideas, hopefully including ours(!) will then go forward to the final pitching session, the GeoVation Showcase, on May 4th.
Support for our bid
We're pleased to say that the bid now has the support of both of the national cycle campaigning organisations as well as a number of the most active local groups, including the biggest, London Cycling Campaign:
Cyclenation, the national federation of cycle campaign groups
CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation
Cambridge Cycling Campaign
London Cycling Campaign
Richmond Cycling Campaign
Pedals (Nottingham Cycling Campaign)
Dublin Cycling Campaign
Spokes – the Lothian Cycle Campaign
Spokes (East Kent Cycle Campaign)
Loughborough & District Cycle Users' Campaign
Push Bikes, the Birmingham Cycling Campaign
all of whom have written quotes of support. Please let us know if you would like to add your group to the list.
How would it work, in brief?
Cyclists would pinpoint problems (points/lines) on a map, e.g. lack of cycle parking, hostile roads, absence of needed route, poor quality cycling conditions, etc., with a photo if available. Planning applications could also appear automatically where the data is available.
(Mobile apps can also post to the database using the existing infrastructure to enable this.)
Others can publicly comment on each submission and add local knowledge. Examples of best practice elsewhere in the system can be pulled in (e.g. as example solutions).
A 'heat map' of problem areas would start to develop, together with per-point indications of status of a problem
Each location effectively becomes an entry in both the map and in a forum-style view
Campaign group members would log in to their group's area of the website, and would have drag-and-drop -style tools to prioritise and discuss the locations. Locations could also be grouped together, e.g. so that multiple issues arising from one development are treated most effectively.
Documents, e-mails and web references can be 'attached' to a particular issue so that all information relating to one issue is in one place.
Cyclists in each area would also be encouraged to register and to 'draw on the map' their typical journeys (helped by the CycleStreets journey planner), so that they can then be alerted to issues and campaigns along those routes
As an issue progresses in terms of external campaigning, it is updated and 'published' in various ways via the site
Prioritised lists can be 'pushed out' to Local Authority contacts, or they can be invited to join the conversation
When issues are finally resolved these would be marked as such, also publicising the work of the group concerned
Where routes in the CycleStreets journey planner are planned that pass through improved areas, the work of the group would be publicised!
The whole system would need to be extremely user-friendly, so that it gets the widest possible usage and actively engages people without technical skills.
We're pleased to announce that the journey planning limit has been doubled to 200 miles (320km). This is well over a day's cycling!
Mobile users should bear in mind that long journeys result in more data being sent over the wire so a slower response should be expected. The generation of the route and its metadata naturally also takes a little longer.
The UK Bike Hub levy released a free iPhone bicycle journey planning app in October, using CycleStreets routing. This was later upgraded to become the world's first vibrate & voice cycle satnav. Bike Hub funds have now enabled the creation of an app for Android phones. This is also free, paid for by UK bicycle suppliers and bike shops.
The iPhone version of the Bike Hub app has had it for a couple of months and now the Android app gets it too: 3D satnav functionality.
The Bike Hub Android app is published under the Travel & Local category in the Android Market Place.
The journey planner supports multiple waypoints. It allows for the saving of 'favourites' and has a 'More' section with articles on the Cycle to Work scheme, the law pertaining to cycling, and loads of quotes about cycling and bicycles. The app size is 3.4mb. Some Android phones have a small onboard memory capacity so the option to save to SD card overcomes this. It's a facility that is set in the app package. Not all phones support this.
The Bike Hub Android and iPhone apps use cycle-specific routing from Cyclestreets with fast/balanced/quiet routes plotted on the OpenCycleMap via the community-developed OpenStreetMap.
Here are some screenshots of the new app! Click to make bigger.
Our new brochure promoting CycleStreets for Local councils around the UK is now available, and hundreds of copies will be posted out this weekend!
Naturally, we're keen to see OSM-based CycleStreets used as widely as possible, so that as many people as possible can be helped to start cycling or find better routes. So we've printed 1,500 copies for distribution to Councils and related organisations.
We'd particularly like to thank Ayesha Garrett of LondonLime who did the design work for us at a next-to-nothing price, by way of support for the CycleStreets project. If you ever need a designer, we can strongly recommend her as someone who will produce great results, quickly and remain always unfailingly polite! Thanks, Ayesha!