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CycleStreets blog

News from CycleStreets

Archive for April, 2011

Circular leisure routes – coming soon to the Bike Hub app

Friday, April 29th, 2011

We're pleased to announce that we're working with Bike Hub to create a new circular (A-A) leisure routing mode for the Bike Hub app for iPhone and Android.

Bike Hub is a joint initiative of the Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders via the Bike Hub levy scheme. The objective of Bike Hub is to generate funds from within the cycle industry to support the future of cycling in the UK.

The Bike Hub app for iPhone and Android is the 'cycle satnav' for the UK – with a 3D mode for planning and following cycle journeys anywhere in the UK. CycleStreets provides the routing behind the app.

   

When CycleStreets first went live, we began by offering a choice of A to B routes for the everyday cyclist. In feedback we receive we've frequently been asked to provide support for routes that go through intermediate points. We've meshed these requests with Bike Hub's desire to help people discover attractive cycle routes where they live.

The result will add a leisure routing mode to the app that can suggest circular routes or construct a circular route through several places of interest. On mobile this will be exclusive to the Bike Hub app. Leisure routes will be available on the main CycleStreets website so that they can be transferred to the app.

Together with other funds we have recently raised as part of our funding drive, this work should enable us to take on a developer to enhance the routing in various ways. We'll shortly be hiring – stay tuned!

Improving cycle journey planning in Scotland – with Cycling Scotland

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Cycling Scotland

We're pleased to announce that we are working with Cycling Scotland to enhance cycle journey planning in Scotland!

Cycling Scotland, the organisation charged with getting more Scots on their bikes, runs a range of initiatives such as Bikeability Scotland, the freshnlo Pedal for Scotland bike ride, cycle instructor training and more. They are keen to provide cycle journey planning – to help remove a key barrier that people face when starting cycling or when they move into a new area.

As part of their journey planning activity, Cycling Scotland are extremely keen to motivate local community groups to map their area into OpenStreetMap, which forms the heart of CycleStreets' journey planner. Although there are areas like Edinburgh which have very high-quality mapping, thanks to the great work of OpenStreetMap volunteers there, other areas of the country are not so well-covered.

To help, we will be creating resources to help local communities with this mapping activity. Principally, this will involve creation of a user-friendly guide which introduces OpenStreetMap, explains how we use it, how people can collect data, and importantly outline the key things that improve the quality of cycle routing. (We hope this guide will also be of wider use to the OpenStreetMap community elsewhere, too, even though it will of course be tailored for Scotland.)

Alongside this work, we'll be creating a customised journey planner for Cycling Scotland, to be hosted on their website. This will benefit, thanks to a grant from them, from the introduction of more advanced routing attributes in our journey planner engine. By encouraging people to collect more detail about the cycling environment in their area, this will improve further the quality of our routing. Naturally, this will all be explained in the user-friendly guide for collectors.

Cycling Scotland are also supporting us to make our routing available more widely on different types of mobile phones, so that it is as accessible as possible.

We think this model of helping get more people cycle by engaging local communities and building on existing work is a brilliant model.

We are looking forward to undertaking these activities in partnership with Cycling Scotland, and will report in coming months as each part is completed and made available.

OpenCycleMap in Scotland – cc-by-sa OpenStreetMap contributors

More support for our GeoVation bid coming in

Monday, April 25th, 2011

As we prepare to face the judges at the Dragon's Den -style contest for GeoVation on May 4th, we're encouraged that more support is continuing to come in.

CPRE (The Campaign to Protect Rural England) work actively on transport matters amongst other issues around the UK.

They have added their support:

"The Campaign to Protect Rural England is delighted to be able to support the CycleStreets GeoVation Challenge bid. We have been working with local communities and parish councils to increase travel options in rural areas as part of our Transport Toolkit project, which was featured in the Department for Transport's Local Transport White Paper earlier this year. Through this work we have found there is a real need for new on-line collaboration tools to help improve conditions for cycling. We believe these innovative proposals would be a huge step forward not just for cycling campaign groups but for others engaged at the local level who seek to improve the range of sustainable travel choices."

– Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport Campaigner, CPRE

Also, the creator of the heavily-used OpenCycleMap map, Andy Allan, has written on his blog about "The Problem of Cycle Complaining" and supporting our bid.

He describes our bid as "a hugely important step forward for all cycle campaigning groups". He hits the nail on the head, recognising the same problems that we and other groups around the country have found, as this extract explains:

If a cycle group want to approach a council to convert one-way roads into two-way, they are unlikely to have the traffic simulations to show the five most useful changes. There’s just a huge gulf in tools and technologies available to each side, so when the only way things work is for one side to suggest and the other to accept/refuse, it’s easier to see where so much reactionary complaining comes from.

Enter the guys behind CycleStreets, with their “Helping campaigners campaign” proposal. You can read it for yourself, but in summary is a web-based tool to track, manage and develop solutions to infrastructure problems facing cyclists. While it’s not a panacea for everything I’ve discussed, I think it’s a hugely important step forward for all cycle campaigning groups. Their proposal has been short-listed for the GeoVation awards finals in two weeks’ time and I wish them the best of luck, the funding from that would really kick things off. If you want to show your support then go for it, through your blogs, twitter or however you see fit. Even if they don’t manage the grand prize I hope to see their proposals come to fruition in the near future, especially given their track record of getting things done. I hope to get the opportunity to help their ideas see the light of day – it will be an excellent tool to help turn cycle complaining into the results we want to see.

CPRE and Andy Allan of OpenCycleMap join other supporters of the bid:

  • Cyclenation, the national federation of cycle campaign groups
  • CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation
  • London Cycling Campaign
  • Richmond Cycling Campaign
  • Bristol
  • Pedals (Nottingham Cycling Campaign)
  • Dublin Cycling Campaign
  • Cambridge Cycling Campaign
  • Spokes – the Lothian Cycle Campaign
  • Spokes (East Kent Cycle Campaign)
  • Loughborough & District Cycle Users' Campaign
  • Push Bikes, the Birmingham Cycling Campaign
  • CycleSheffield

Read their quotes of support in section 10 our full bid document.

If you're free on 4th May, we'd love you to come to the GeoVation Showcase to support us (and vote for us for the additional Community Prize!). It's a daytime event on the south coast, so we're aware it may not be easy for people to come to, but do come should you happen to be free. There are a number of other interesting projects, so it will be a good chance to hear about them and mingle and network with other innovators.

Get your free ticket here: http://geovationshowcase2011.eventbrite.com/

Here's a great picture of many of the people whose ideas got through to the shortlisting stage of GeoVation:

GeoVation

Photo credit: GeoVation blog

Press release: CycleStreets’ cycling project to face Dragon’s Den -style contest

Monday, April 25th, 2011

A Cambridge-based project to improve cycling around the Britain has reached the finals of a national funding contest, GeoVation, run by the Ordnance Survey. GeoVation aims to combine Geography and Innovation to help fund ideas which will help improve transport of various kinds.

The bid by Cambridge-based CycleStreets, who run the UK-wide cycle journey planner website, has reached the final 10 projects aiming to improve transport in Britain. Over 150 entries were initially submitted, and CycleStreets have succeeded in the initial shortlisting stage and a subsequent workshop event.

The 'Dragon's Den' -style event to select the winning projects will be held on 4th May at the Ordnance Survey's new eco-friendly headquarters in Southampton. This 'GeoVation Showcase' event will select around five winners, who will share a bounty of £150,000, to enable the projects to be developed.

CycleStreets' proposal is for a web-based system to improve the effectiveness of cycling advocacy groups around the UK. These groups aim to get more people on their bikes, by encouraging local councils to create safer and more convenient conditions for cycling. It is designed to help volunteers who care passionately about improving cycling to work together as effectively as possible.

CycleStreets' proposal has the backing of both of the national cycling campaign bodies and a range of groups around the UK, including Cambridge Cycling Campaign. For instance, CTC – the national cyclists' organisation said:

"A webtool for cyclists to help local councils spend their cycling budgets cost-effectively would be a wonderful 'big society' venture, that could yield huge benefits for our health and that of our streets, communities and the environment."

CycleStreets' idea will make use of a variety of information sources, including the Ordnance Survey's boundary and postcode data, collision and planning application information, and OpenStreetMap data.

Dr Chris Parker, GeoVation Co-ordinator at Ordnance Survey, said:

"There are huge and exciting opportunities for geography to be harnessed to help us all travel in a smarter, more sustainable way, as all our finalists have clearly demonstrated. We're looking forward to seeing the CycleStreets pitch and wish them the best of luck."

Notes for editors:

  1. Information about GeoVation, and the finalists – including CycleStreets' proposal – can be found online at http://www.geovation.org.uk/.
  2. Details of CycleStreets' bid, 'Helping Campaigners Campaign' is at http://www.cyclestreets.net/blog/2011/03/06/geovation-bid-shortlisted/
  3. For more details, contact CycleStreets
  4. CycleStreets is a not-for-profit company based in Cambridge, and was created as an off-shoot of Cambridge Cycling Campaign.
  5. CycleStreets runs the UK-wide Cycle journey planner and Photomap at www.cyclestreets.net , which has had over 640,000 journeys planned. Users can plan cycle-friendly routes from A-B, and will get three options – a quietest, fastest and balanced route option. The Photomap enables people to add photos of cycling-related problems and good practice to the map.
  6. A copy of the Ordnance Survey logo and the CycleStreets logo are available. A full-size version of the graphic above is also available.

New ‘cycle to us’ links – techy work in progress

Monday, April 11th, 2011

A techy post reporting on some work in progress, and seeking suggestions! …

A while back we introduced various new URL formats like:

http://www.cyclestreets.net/journey/to/SW1A+2AA/

which would allow someone at that postcode to put a link 'cycle here' on their website.

Journey to...

This is designed so that the user needing to plan a journey would just follow the link, type in where they want to start from, and click 'Plan'.

We've been working on some more formats lately (well, actually, last night until 3am!). This is a quick 'work-in-progress' post, and we'd welcome any ideas.

You can enter /to/ or /from/, can enter postcodes, lat/lon and can add an optional label at the end. Examples:

Postcode:

Both – London to Cambridge:

Lat,lon, with or without a zoom level:

With a customised label added:

There are also the area homepages, which can be combined with the above:

Very experimental, and not yet working well: including the NameCapitalised in the URL, e.g.

What other formats could be useful?

Once we've finalised them, we'll turn them into a nice interface like the Link page has.

Tech spot:

Definitely stop reading now if you're not a techy :)

The regexp for these is not very nice! /journey/<from>/<to>/  is done using:

^/journey/((?:[A-Z]{1}[^/]+)|(?:[a-zA-Z]{1}[^/]+)|(?:(?:-?[0-9][0-9]?\.?[0-9]{0,7}),(?:-?[0-9][0-9]?\.?[0-9]{0,8})(?:,(?:7|8|9|10|11|12|13|14|15|16))?))/((?:[A-Z]{1}[^/]+)|(?:[a-zA-Z]{1}[^/]+)|(?:(?:-?[0-9][0-9]?\.?[0-9]{0,7}),(?:-?[0-9][0-9]?\.?[0-9]{0,8})(?:,(?:7|8|9|10|11|12|13|14|15|16))?))/$

Wider use of DfT data

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Over the last year and half, the DfT has been collecting cycling data for use in its TransportDirect portal.

We received today a letter from Norman Baker MP confirming that it is the DfT's intention to open this dataset, in line with the new government's principles on transparency. We think this is an excellent development. It confirms earlier discussions we held with members of the former Cycling England.

It is our understanding that the data is currently referenced from the Ordnance Survey's ITN dataset. This means it would, if kept in raw format, be useless to anyone without access to an expensive ITN license, and even then could be encumbered. However, Norman Baker sensibly writes:

"We recognise that the data in its current form is subject to licenses and so are working towards translating the data into a format that is more easily used by the developer and OpenStreetMap community."

This is good as it recognises that releasing a dataset without it being referenced against open (lat/lon) attributes would be open data only in name rather than in spirit. Using the Open Government License should ensure that it can be merged into OpenStreetMap, whose dataset has proven its worth for UK-wide cycle journey planning purposes.

The OpenStreetMap community is rightly wary of mass imports of data. In order to make use of this data, we have stressed that some tool development would be needed to enable it to be manually 'pulled across' via visual inspection if it is to be used, which we've been talking to Andy about.

We are extremely keen to help the DfT with this whole process, and discussions have been positive. We hope to report further on this soon. It would ensure the government can achieve greater taxpayer value for the data, and thereby enable us and others to give additional confidence to people considering starting cycling or wanting safer routes. Getting the data into OSM will also mean that the data is a living dataset that is kept updated.

As a sidenote, Norman Baker seems to be on a roll with sensible thinking. It is recently reported that he has refused to tow to the unquestioning view of helmet-wearing, but instead has weighed up the evidence himself and decided not to on a personal basis. This reflects best-practice cycle training: that risks should be assessed according to circumstances, and therefore the choice of whether to use a helmet is an individual one. He's also requested people to come forward with examples of unnecessary and annoying announcements on public transport – truly fresh thinking!

Adding a CycleStreets route planner to your site

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

 

Organisations can already create a simple 'cycle to us' link.

However, some larger organisations may like to have a planner embedded in their site directly. So we've published a new page detailing how Local Authorities and cycling promotion bodies can add a CycleStreets route planner to their site.

CycleStreets can be added:

  1. As a subdomain (e.g. cyclemap.placeford.org); or
  2. As a subdirectory (e.g. www.placeford.org/cycling/journeyplanner/); or
  3. Via an iframe (though this is not ideal); or
  4. Using our API (see documentation)

Read full details of the embedding methods, and the steps required, at http://www.cyclestreets.net/help/embedding/

Placeford example

Going to Glastonbury Festival? Cycle there!

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Bikes at Glastonbury

I'm a huge fan of the Glastonbury Festival, the UK's best music and culture festival in the UK. And this area of Somerset is a wonderful place to cycle around.

The Festival has plenty of bike culture around – check out these photos of the Festival on our Photomap and this review of Bikes at Glastonbury I contributed to.

So if you're going to the Festival, why not plan a cycle route to the Festival? Just enter your start point and click Plan!

Check out the Festival's Getting there by bike page also.

Martin

Through to the GeoVation final!

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

On the way to the OSLast week we took part in the GeoVation Camp at the Ordnance Survey's splendid new HQ in Southampton. It was a fun, if exhausting, weekend.

The purpose of the weekend was for GeoVation to narrow down to a final shortlist the ideas that would go to the final.

GeoVation presentationOur proposal is called 'Helping Campaigners Campaign' (a more catchy title to be determined!), and is aimed at making the work of existing cycle campaign groups be as efficient and effective as possible.

Over the weekend, we, along with the other 20 groups through to this stage of the contest, developed their ideas and prepared a presentation to the judges as well as a 2-minute pecha kucha presentation.

We're pleased to say that we're into the final 10! We'll be attending the final pitching stage on May 4th, and are looking forward to it. If we are amongst the winning groups, this would result in funding of around £30,000 to implement the idea.

Discussing the proposals   Developing the proposals

Several other proposals that we really liked, such as MySociety's FixMyTransport for mobile and a mobile multi-modal journey planner (which we hope would use our routing!) were also through to the final, which is great news.

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

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