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News from CycleStreets

Archive for the ‘Geocoding’ Category

Railway station codes in searches

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

We've added a mini-feature to our website and mobile apps that some regular train-using cyclists may find useful.

You can now enter train station codes (e.g. KGX for King's Cross) in the search box, and the location of that station will be found. It just avoids lots more typing, and is useful if you use particular stations regularly.

We've been able to do this thanks to a dataset on Scraperwiki.

Also works in our mobile apps

This works in our apps for iPhone, Android and mobile web:


In fact, any app using our geocoder API, such as Bike Hub will pick this up too.

Preset URL formats also supported

You can also enter these in our preset ("plan a journey to..") URLs too.

For instance, will set King's Cross as the destination point.

Or would set the points for King's Cross to Waterloo.

You can read about the many preset URL formats we've set up, which cover postcodes and more.

Cyclestreets iPhone app updated with new features and fixes

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

A new release of our iPhone app is now out. Go to the app store updates page and update today, or download the app if you don't already have it (it's free!).

Version 1.5.1 fixes various reported bugs (including the 'freezing map' bug that affected some installations).

So what's new?

Firstly, we've made various improvements to the itinerary listing page. There are more icons on the listing view to help distinguish the type of paths you'll be cycling on. We've also rearranged the itinerary map view to put the left/right buttons nearer your thumb, and enabled the Photos-en-route to be disabled. In areas like London and Cambridge these sometimes obscured the road names.


We've also added a new feature for Ordnance Survey fans – the OS Street View (open data) map is now available experimentally. You can switch the app over to this OS style (or to OpenCycleMap) on the settings page.


Next, the OpenCycleMap map view works much better. This is the second map option which highlights cycle paths and shows hills.

The app was previously using an older and slower map server (entirely our fault, not Andy who runs it!). We've updated to the recommended server, and ensured that you can zoom all the way in. As a result, OpenCycleMap now loads much quicker and in all its beautifully detailed glory!


Station codes have been added to into the search results – a mini-feature which some people will find useful.

If you take your bike on trains, or perhaps travel to London before hopping on a boris-bike (or indeed now to Newcastle on a ScratchBike!), you can enter the station code (e.g. KGX for King's Cross, CBG for Cambridge), and the app will find that directly. This is particularly useful if you regularly make cycle journeys to/from particular stations.


The full list of changes is:

  • OpenCycleMap map style now loads faster and to a higher zoom level.
  • New Ordnance Survey map style option (OS open data Street View).
  • Can now search for stations using the station code (e.g. KGX for King's Cross)
  • Better support for journey road types.
  • Ability to toggle route photos on/off in the itinerary view.
  • Freezing map bug fixed.
  • Bug fixes and UI enhancements.

An open source project – developers wanted!

This update to the app is thanks again to the hard work of Neil Edwards, who has done a few more days' work on it in his spare time. We can really recommend Neil if you need any iPhone app development doing.

The app is open source, and we'd really welcome volunteers to join our team. The code is on GitHub is available, and there are a range of new features and fixes we'd like to add – both small and big. So if you know Objective-C and would like to contribute to an app that's planned over 2 million km of cycle routes, do get in touch. Neil will be doing a tech posting soon, but don't let that hold you up.

Other platforms

Users of other types of phones need not feel left out … Our Android app will see another update soon. And our mobile web site is almost ready for release, meaning Blackberry/Windows/Symbian owners should have access to our routing on the go shortly – stay tuned for a blog post soon.

Cycle to your polling station!

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Polling stations for the 2010 elections

We've added a new polling stations section to the CycleStreets Journey Planner, which locates the polling stations as destination points:

Currently this covers just Cambridge, Edinburgh, Wokingham and most London boroughs, but we can add more if we receive the data (see below).

Can you help us add other areas?

To add an area, we need a spreadsheet e-mailed to us containing the following headings:

  • Longitude, Latitude (two columns), or Postcode
  • Polling station name/description
  • Location, e.g. street/place (optional)

These have to be spreadsheets (preferably a CSV file) – sadly we don't have time to do PDF extraction ourselves at the moment.

The London data is from the website.

Finding streets and places now quicker

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

As well as adding postcode search support recently, we’ve this week we’ve upgraded the general street/place finding system (called a ‘geocoder’).

We’ve moved to using the new Nominatim system (technical details for those interested) by Brian Quinion – thanks to him and anyone else involved in that project.

Some tips for quicker searches are:

  • If the map is zoomed out, ideally include a city name as well, so that it knows what area to look in
  • If you do specify a city, add a comma before it, e.g. “York Street, Cambridge” rather than just “York Street Cambridge”
  • Note that lower-case text works the same as Capitalised Text.

In terms of our own implementation, the area you are in is automatically added when the map shown covers less than 18km across (zoom level 12 or higher).

The search-as-you-type implementation is one we heavily adapted from Search-as-you-Type on Google Code. We will release the front-end and back-end code in due course once we’ve done some more tidying to separate it out from other parts of CycleStreets, as we move towards open-sourcing the code.

Postcode searching added

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Cambridge Sustainable City

Thanks to a grant (see our earlier blog posting) from Cambridge Sustainable City (part of Cambridge City Council), we have now added full postcode searching.

Postcode searching is clearly an expectation of users, and our data suggests some users have given up doing journey plans at all – on the assumption that the lack of recognition of their postcode meant their location wasn’t there at all.

However, we still have a full streetfinder and placefinder as well – so feel free to search using normal text like “Market Place”!

This has been the most requested feature since we went live and we have received very many bug reports saying that “my postcode isn’t recognised”. We’ve mentioned this problem before, and we’re pleased to have the money to add postcode searching for a year at least.

Sadly, PostZon is not a free data source (unlike OpenStreetMap, whose excellent map data we use for routing and the map pictures). There is a campaign to Free The Postcode which we strongly support, and there are rumours this might happen in the coming year, but there are absolutely no guarantees on this sadly.

Cambridge Sustainable City is an environmental initiative of Cambridge City Council, who are one of a number of Local Authorities who are now linking to CycleStreets from their website transport pages. (We hope that many more will follow!)

Cambridge Sustainable City aims to involve and support the local community in Cambridge’s efforts to address environmental issues. As a means to achieving this, they offer grant funding to local groups and organisations like CycleStreets whose work brings environmental and community benefits.

We are extremely grateful to them for their support.

We will report on the other projects that their funding is helping to support in the coming months.

I can’t find my Postcode

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

It is very possible that you will not be able to find your own postcode using the CycleStreets search. This is due to the data source of postcodes that we are using, and you can contribute too.

CycleStreets could use the Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF), however that is very expensive at over £5,000 (and some postcodes can be inaccurate). Instead we are using data from two sister projects of OpenStreetMap (where the data for the routing engine comes from). These are FreeThePostcode and NPE Maps. At some point in the future postcode data in OpenStreetMap will be included too.

(If you have a spare £5k hanging around, that would enable us to obtain the PAF, let us know!)

Adding postcodes if you have a mobile phone with a GPS in:

  • If you have an iPhone 3G there is a really easy way to add more postcodes to the data set, thus allowing you to enter that postcode in the future. First up install the iPhone App iFreeThePostCode and then go to the place that you want to add with your iPhone and start the app. You will need to allow location services while the phone searches gets your current location. Enter the postcode and when the accuracy is below 75 metres you will be able to submit your postcode and within a fortnight it will be available for searching. You will normally need to be outside to get the good GPS accuracy.
  • If you have an Android phone you can use either andnav or freethepostcode available from the Android Market.
  • If you are using a J2ME-compatible phone with an internal or bluetooth GPS, then you can install a program called TrackMyJourney. These apps have the ability to submit postcodes too, however require more technical ability to manage.


Free the postcode

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

CycleStreets doesn’t yet have full postcode searching, though we at least take the first half of an entered postcode to get you to the right area, when doing a namefind search. We are currently using the excellent service from the great guys at Cloudmade.

Unless there is a massive surge of donations (!) we simply don’t have the funds to give Royal Mail £5,450, and if we did have such funds, it’s arguable that paying for faster server equipment would be a better priority.

Royal Mail has a monopoly on the UK postcode set at present. And now, in a real McLibel-style shot-in-the-foot exercise, Royal Mail has served a cease-and-desist order on, a supplier of a public postcode API (programming interface) for community groups. (CycleStreets hasn’t been using Ernest Marples, as they had never stated exactly what their data source is, and we want to stay squeaky-clean in case.)

Royal Mail’s treatment of a not-for-profit is quite expectedly attracting a lot of attention from around the blogosphere:

It’s also gaining parliamentary attention: Tom Watson MP has written a great letter to Royal Mail on the issue of postcode database availability following an earlier blog post he made. (NB CycleStreets does not, and will not, have any party-political affiliation.) It will be interesting to see what Royal Mail comes back with.

Postcodes – and indeed other data related to mapping – needs to be out in the Open.

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

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