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CycleStreets blog

News from CycleStreets

Archive for May, 2012

Taking CycleStreets cycle routing another step further: surface quality, barriers, traffic calming, lighting

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

We’re pleased to announce a series of upgrades to the routing that have been rolled out in the last few months.

We’ve extended the range of OpenStreetMap tags that the CycleStreets routing engine uses to find cycle routes. This has helped us improve the quality of the suggested bike routes in two main ways: by handling the surface descriptions of the ways and accounting for the time delay caused by various obstacles along a route, as well as some other enhancements. This is part of an overall project (to be fully launched very soon) to help merge in some great new data from the DfT [see our blog post about the testing phase which is now completed].

The routing engine now newly takes notice, or takes more notice, of these aspects (where the data exists in OpenStreetMap) when planning journeys:

  • Surface quality (e.g. avoiding muddy bridleways)
  • All manner of hurdles (gates, bollards, barriers, kerbs) that can impede a cyclist’s journey
  • The presence of traffic calming
  • Presence on a greater range of established route (e.g. mtb)
  • Streets with a cycle lane only on one side
  • Whether a path is lit

Based on the feedback we’ve seen recently these changes are already improving the quality of routes served to users, but as ever we continue to monitor, tune and enhance the various parameters.

Surface quality has a major impact on the suitability of some routes for cycling. A few bridleways make excellent cycle tracks but the majority are usually deeply rutted a sometimes difficult even to push a bike when dismounted. Now that we are now doing more in our analysis of the tags to look at surface quality we’ve been able to significantly downgrade our default assumptions for the rideability of footpaths, tracks and bridleways. Only if they have tags that indicate good ride quality, such as tracktype=grade1 or surface=paved or surface=asphalt are they promoted to be considered cyclable as embedded in our routing sieve.

We’ve introduced the concept of ‘hurdles’ to represent the various types of obstacle found on cycle routes. Originally the only types of hurdle we recognised were traffic lights at junctions or crossings. They introduced an average delay of 20 and 5 seconds into our route calculations. Following on from our collaboration with the Department for Transport and CycleCity Guides we’ve been able to extend the coverage to more types of hurdle such as bollards, chicanes, speed humps and stiles.

In the routing system the hurdles add an average delay to routes and so routes with fewer hurdles are preferred. All the hurdles encountered are now included in the route listing pages, such as journey #2,163,046 which lists several cattle grids and a toucan crossing on just over a mile long route through Cambridge.

OpenStreetMap detail strongly encouraged

We hope these changes will encourage more mappers to add more details to OSM. These will actively improve the quality of routing we can provide to users and ‘think like a cyclist’. Every cyclist can tell of a barrier that has caused them annoyance and delay, and adding the data to OSM will help them avoid that.

A wealth of this data is now available as open data for you to merge in (manually) as this new screencast explains. A major new set of pages and an introductory blog post will follow on this shortly now that the data is available!

The OSM tags we’ve added support for are:

  • barrier=bollard
  • barrier=cattle_grid
  • barrier=cycle_barrier
  • barrier=gate
  • barrier=horse_stile
  • barrier=motorcycle_barrier
  • barrier=kerb
  • barrier=kissing_gate
  • barrier=lift_gate
  • barrier=stile
  • crossing=pelican
  • crossing=toucan
  • crossing=uncontrolled
  • crossing=zebra
  • cycleway:left=lane
  • cycleway:right=lane
  • ford=yes
  • lit=yes|automatic
  • surface=asphalt
  • surface=paved
  • tracktype=grade(1-5)
  • traffic_calming=bump
  • traffic_calming=chicane
  • traffic_calming=cushion
  • traffic_calming=hump
  • traffic_calming=table
  • traffic_calming=yes

Detecting presence on a bicycle route via these (though several were already in place):

  • (icn|ncn|rcn|lcn|mtb)=name
  • (icn|ncn|rcn|lcn|mtb)_ref=name

Or via a way’s presence on a relation that has type=route,route=bicycle.

More tags (cycle lane widths) and more detailed support to follow – stay tuned…

Cycling on the national stage

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The last few months have seen a big resurgent movement of people wanting to see better cycling conditions around the UK. We couldn’t let this pass without some brief comment!

Cities Fit for Cycling – Times CycleSafe

The Times newspaper has been running a fantastic campaign, Cities Fit for Cycling, which has massively raised the profile cycle safety issues, with its 8-point manifesto that echoes many of the key issues often raised by cycle campaigners.

As a search for #CycleSafe on Twitter will show, Cities Fit for Cycling has really captured the imagination and interest of cycle campaigners – and increasingly the general public – around the UK, and especially in London.


A series of articles has really upped the pressure on decision-makers, leading to parliamentary debates, and London Cycling Campaign have helped pile on the pressure by organising The Big Ride.


Through our own project Cyclescape we are hoping to enable the enthusiasm of campaigners to be facilitated more at a local level.

Summer of Cycling

This summer sees the Summer of Cycling. It’s a great opportunity to encourage someone you know to get on their bike!

The Summer of Cycling is a national campaign running this summer which aims to encourage more people to cycle. The All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and The Bicycle Association, alongside the force of 23 cycling organisations are aiming to double cycling this summer.

It’s about encouraging everyone with an interest in cycling to share the fun and introduce just one friend, neighbour, colleague or family member to cycling.

Who’s your +1 ?

Go Dutch! says London Cycling Campaign

London is seeing a resurgence of interest in the idea of Going Dutch, thanks to cyclists led by London Cycling Campaign, of which we are proud to be members, and others.

LCC have done a brilliant job over the last year in challenging decision-makers to do better in places like Blackfriar’s Bridge and Parliament Square, and to do what virtually no other group has done, and actually showcase actual alternative designs, putting forward a wonderfully positive agenda. From our own experience in cycling around the Netherlands, we know how much this would benefit every Londoner, and so we fully support LCC’s efforts.



Have a look at more Photos from the Netherlands in our Photomap, some of which were from our own trip with Cambridge Cycling Campaign.

We hope some of the above will inspire you to get more involved, wherever you are!

— Martin and Simon

CycleStreets Mobile web site judged “Best Application Design” by usability expert

Friday, May 11th, 2012

We’re delighted that the CycleStreets Mobile web site has been judged one of the “Best Application Designs”, by renowned web usability guru, Jakob Nielsen!

The mobile site was one of the winners in the Lightweight Applications category. You can read the report announcing the winners on his site, and a fuller downloadable report is available (for a fee).

The site is a small-screen version of our main site, and is intended to work on a range of mobile devices, such as iPhone, Android, modern Blackberry devices and more. (We haven’t quite got full compatibility for Windows Phone 7.5 Mango yet, but if you can help, do contribute to the codebase.)

As the report outlines, our aim with producing a mobile web browser app was to enable quick and simple planning of journeys on a small screen, offering the key functionality of CycleStreets with a minimum of fuss, a quick download time, and providing clear large buttons. We were able to include much of the usability learning from the main site and the iPhone and Android apps in creating the site, and as such it includes many of the best elements of each of them. For instance, there is a quick way to switch routes directly and to see the details of the route without going to a different screen. Also, the crosshairs concept enables quick and accurate planning and avoids problems with large fingers obscuring the start/finish points.

The site was created by Anna Powell-Smith, who we’d like to congratulate! We’d also like to thank Tom Steinberg of MySociety whose insight into one key aspect of the app really helped improve it.


Cycle journey planning in Scotland

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Over the last year we’ve been pleased to work with Cycling Scotland on a range of projects, now all completed and outlined below.

These projects, which have been achieved thanks to Cycling Scotland’s grant and funding of £22k, will help improve improve CycleStreets, to help people find their way and consider cycling as a practical option for their journeys.

Cycling Scotland is the national cycle promotion organisation for Scotland, working to establish cycling as an acceptable, attractive and practical lifestyle option, and aiming to make Scotland a nation of cyclists.

Cycle journey planner for Cycling Scotland

The new Scotland Cycle Journey Planner has launched!

This is a customised, embedded site within Cycling Scotland’s website, enabling people to plan journeys from A-B directly within their site. It includes quick links to a number of cities in Scotland.

Community mapping guide

We’ve created a community mapping guide, which explains how people can help improve the data used for the journey planner. This is part of Cycling Scotland’s ‘Community Cycle Mapping’ project which encourages local communities to capture cycling-related information so that it can improve the journeys of others.

Finding out about good cycle routes – where it is safe and convenient to cycle – means availability of good maps and the knowledge of local people about their area.

The guide is also available on Cycling Scotland’s website.

Improving the routing by supporting more detailed street data

Part of the grant from Cycling Scotland helped us to add support for more detailed information coming from in OpenStreetMap. By interpreting things like surface quality, various barriers, etc., we can improve the quality of journeys that we can suggest to users, leading to ever-improving routes.

We also began work on supporting turn delays in the engine, to reduce the problem of wiggly routes in the journey planner engine. We hope to complete this in coming months. Finishing this will mean we can improve the practicability of routes that people follow.

Hosting fund contribution

The grant included a contribution towards hosting, which has ensured we can cover use of the main journey planner for Scotland for three years. (Donations, enabling us to improve the hosting across the UK, are welcome!)

Android app

The CycleStreets Android app, available FREE was released last year more quickly as a result of the grant.

The app is well-rated, at 4.3/5 with 99 reviews. Most reviews seem very positive and highlight how the app has helped them find better routes.

Mobile web site

The grant also enabled us to develop a new mobile small-screen version of our website. The site ensures that people can access the journey planner easily via their mobile, for a variety of types of mobile device.

It has just been honoured as a winner of ‘Best Application Design‘ by the usability expert, Jakob Nielsen.

Cyclescape: More features in place

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Cyclescape is the toolkit for cycle campaign groups that we’re developing. Here’s the latest update, cross-posted from the Cyclescape blog:

Work is continuing apace with Cyclescape, with more features now in place as we work up to a wider release to Campaign groups around the country.

There are still quite a number of unfinished areas, but we’re getting there. Andrew and (most recently) Andy have been busy adding more in place for us.

  • Deadline setting
  • Collision data
  • Per-thread attachments
  • Committee-only privacy setting
  • Popular issues

Read about these below:

Deadline setting:

Deadlines (or other dates) can now be set.

Our experience of cycle campaigning is that it’s often easy to miss a consultation deadline or some other date, if there’s a lot going on. By then, it’s too late, and the opportunity to see improvements to cycling are missed.

The set dates are now listed in ‘My Cyclescape’, the user’s main summary area. We’ll be developing this interface further.

Collision data:

Collision data is now integrated, using a new data feed from CycleStreets, and linking through to their collision reports.

This feature has been developed for the Cambridge group, pushed forward because of the large number of planning applications in that area, for which collision data can often provide a useful context.

Development of this feature, and various underlying code pre-requisites, has been possible thanks to a grant from Cambridge Sustainable City, whose support has been invaluable.

This screenshot, for instance, shows the site of collisions in Mill Road, an area subject to continuing pressures on cyclists from lorries. Several planning applications in recent years would have benefitted from this data being available.

The finalised interface for collisions isn’t quite in place yet – buttons for this will be added to finish it off.

Per-thread attachments:

Attachments can now be added to individual discussion threads. Previously the only way to add an attachment was to add it to the Library, which is always public.

Currently there is a slight limitation that, if e-mailing to the discussion thread (since you can reply to things via e-mail, not just via the website), attachments do not get through. We’re working on this!

Committee-only privacy setting:

There are now three privacy options for each discussion thread:

  • Public (publicly visible)
  • Group (i.e. available to all members of the group)
  • Committee (available only to current Committee members)

The latter option means that groups can discuss sensitive matters in privacy if required, e.g. pre-consultation plans from a developer.

There is a setting in the group’s area which sets the default (public/group) when their members start a discussion thread.

Cyclescape has a voting system, which now results in a list of popular items, ensuring that key strategic issues can stay floated to the top.

More will be done to expose this feature in due course, as the rest of the interface is improved, but the underlying functionality is now in place.


The What’s New? link at the end of each page on the site has a log of individual features and bugfixes as they are put in.

Bit by bit, the site’s functionality and interface is falling into place!

In our next Cyclescape blog post we’ll talk about what we’re currently working on, i.e. what’s missing and what’s not yet finished.

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

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