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News from CycleStreets

Archive for January, 2013

Scripting CycleStreets setup (Tech post)

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

This is a tech post, so if you’re not a techy person, feel free to stop reading now!

We’ve been reorganising the CycleStreets codebase to get ready for open-sourcing the remainder of our software.

This has been a challenging task involving learning how to write scripts that automate the installation of the CycleStreets website. The job has taken rather longer than expected, but has resulted in a much clearer structure to the highest level of the CycleStreets system and given us greater control of how the system is deployed.

It is fair to say that this aspect of our system had become rather complex with a lot of hidden dependencies. This would have been a real barrier for new coders to our project and so it had to be sorted out. The work now allows our codebase to separate out into these scenarios:

  • Live deployment – provides the main CycleStreets website
  • Failover deployment – holds a replicated copy of all CycleStreets data that can be used, should the live site fail for some reason
  • Import – processes the latest OpenStreetMap extracts into a routing system

An immediate benefit of the work will be that we can much more easily deploy each of these roles. So for instance we could have multiple import machines, and each could be configured to serve different regions of the world.

We still have a little further work to clean and clarify the codebase before we can open the core code. This has been our main priority for the last few months, and will remain so for the next few weeks. It won’t be perfect, but we’ve aimed to get rid of the really bad dependency gremlins.

We’ve also been doing various cleanups, such as removing this blog installation from the main repository, daemonizing the routing process (optionally), and adding SMS monitoring.

The ongoing work on the scripts part of our system can be viewed at our public CycleStreets setup repository.

Prahou na kole (Prague by bike) introduces CycleStreets integration

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013


Prahou na kole (Prague by bike), a Czech webzine and bicycle advocacy portal introduces CycleStreets integration.

What started 7 years ago as one-man’s attempt to show that utility cycling in Prague was indeed feasible by making an unofficial cycle map has grown into one of the best information sources on urban cycling in the country. There are a few blog posts every week ranging from media monitoring, new infrastructure reviews, inspiration from abroad to in-depth analysis of economic efficiency of city’s investments into different transportation solutions, how to improve cyclists and pedestrians coexistence or why obsolete technical and legal requirements end up with unusable cycleways. We also organize campaigns to contact political representatives or provide individual consultancy on finding the best cycle route.

Points of interest

Yet the map remains one of the key elements of the site. The original one drawn in a CAD over a commercial map was replaced in 2011 by OpenStreetMap based solution. We wanted to show as much information as possible so we developed a custom mapnik style (opensource) featuring details such as surface quality (the line is solid on smooth surface while dashed on unpaved or poor ways, cobblestone streets are drawn with square texture) or car traffic levels.

The map application also consists of 3,000+ POIs (some of them were imported to CycleStreets database and you can find them in the CycleStreets Photomap).

The next logical step was to incorporate a journey planner. At first we wanted to develop a custom one, but fortunately we found CycleStreets and it proved to work well. It took us the whole 2012 before we came up with the official release. The process was difficult mainly due to differences in OSM tagging conventions and legal rules between the UK and Czechia, our numerous feature requests on routing algorithm (many thanks to Martin and Simon for implementing them) and last but not least due to OSM license change – significant portion of Prague was gone as one of the key early mappers declined the license.

Anyway, the effort paid off and we can claim to have the best journey planner integrated into our site.

Journey planner integration

Editor’s note: This collaboration started when Martin was on holiday in Prague. By co-incidence, CycleStreets received an e-mail from Václav asking whether we planned to cover Prague. Martin e-mailed back saying he happened to be in Prague, and we met up the next day!

“CycleStreets: our story” – Green Enterprise talk, Monday 28th, Cambridge

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Green Enterprise

We’re giving a talk to Green Enterprise, in Cambridge, today (Monday 28th January 2013).

Themes covered in the talk will include:

  • Who we are
  • What we provide
  • A bit about how the journey planner works
  • OpenStreetMap and data collection
  • Volunteer data collection
  • Open-sourcing
  • Funding
  • Competition
  • Big projects
  • Challenges for the future

Do come! Full details are on the Green Enterprise website.

7.30pm-9.30pm, 28th January 2013.
Venue: Friends’ Meeting House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge.

Cambridge is only an hour from London by train, so well worth a visit.


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