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Archive for the ‘Photomap’ Category

Helping campaigners campaign: our GeoVation challenge bid

Friday, February 4th, 2011
Cycling in the Netherlands happens because of bike-friendly culture and excellent infrastructure.

Let's face it – cycling conditions in the UK need to be improved massively. Cycle lanes that end unexpectedly, roads shared with lorries and traffic fumes, non-existent cycle parking. Any cyclist can give you a catalogue of problems that need tackling.

The end result is far fewer people cycling than there should be. Despite odd spots around the UK like Cambridge, Oxford, York which have a cycling culture, the outlook around the UK is not great.

Cycle campaign groups are key to changing this. 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.

How can cycle campaigners deal with the deluge of problems on our streets?

As well as our journey planner, CycleStreets includes a Photomap (with so far around 26,000 photos), designed to allow cycle campaigners (like us) and the public pinpoint problems they experience. In short, it's a campaigning tool aimed to help campaigners do their job. However, it could be made a lot more useful and user-friendly than it currently is.

We plan to help solve the problems that every campaign group around the UK continually faces.

We want to build on the existing Photomap to provide cycle campaigners with the best possible tools to make their job much easier.

  • Cyclists and the public need a better way to pinpoint problems like lack of cycle parking, desirable new cycle paths, better on-street conditions, etc.;
  • Campaigners need tools to prioritise problems in their area and group related problems together;
  • People need simpler means to collaborate by adding local knowledge and views about each problem;
  • Cycle campaign groups need better tools to make the scale of the problem clearer;
  • People who cycle through an area need to become aware of campaign work going on;
  • The profile of local cycle campaign groups needs to be much higher and they can be helped get more members;
  • Campaigners shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel but have access to great tools immediately;
  • Campaign groups need to help Local Authorities listen and take up the problems;
  • Local Authorities and funding bodies need a clearer idea of the scale of the problem so that money can be found;
  • Campaigners need more direct access to related information such as collision statistics, to avoid having to search for it.

… all in the most user-friendly way possible.

How would it work, in brief?

  1. 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
  2. (Mobile apps can also post to the database using the existing infrastructure to enable this.)
  3. Others can publicly comment on each submission and add local knowledge
  4. A 'heat map' of problem areas would start to develop, together with per-point indications of status of a problem
  5. Each location effectively becomes an entry in both the map and in a forum-style view
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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
  9. As an issue progresses in terms of external campaigning, it is updated and 'published' in various ways via the site
  10. Prioritised lists can be 'pushed out' to Local Authority contacts, or they can be invited to join the conversation
  11. When issues are finally resolved these would be marked as such, also publicising the work of the group concerned
  12. 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.

Our proposal

We are proposing to submit a bid to the GeoVation Challenge, the Ordnance Survey initiative which is running a funding competition, "How can we improve transport in Britain?".

We plan to bid for one of the six pots of £30,000 available to create an extremely user-friendly set of tools that would be available free-of-charge to every campaign group in the country, branded in an area-specific way and embeddable within campaign group websites.

Put simply, we want campaigners to be able to carry out their work much more effectively, to reduce the effort required, all the way from identifying problems to seeing them fixed. As members of Cambridge Cycling Campaign, we have ourselves long-needed tools like this, and we want to create a facility which will be enthusiastically taken up around the country.

Here is our full draft proposal. We welcome ideas for enhancements.

Please support our bid

Please comment on the bid here.

Please let us know your comments – you can contact us or just leave a comment below.

CycleStreets: Our Story – presentation to Net2Camb event

Friday, January 14th, 2011

We really enjoyed the January Net2Camb Meetup event, where one of our lead developers, Martin, gave a talk 'Our Story'. Thanks to Claire for organising the event and everyone who came!

It was particularly enjoyable as it was a rare opportunity to talk about the business and competition aspects of CycleStreets, about the challenges we face, and the future opportunities for the project.

We were also pleased that a couple of people came forward as new volunteers!

Here is our presentation [link]:

 

 

 

 

View more presentations from CycleStreets.

Design/usability improvements

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Over the last month or so we've rolled out a range of usability-orientated design improvements to the Journey Planner and the Photomap. We'd like to do much more, but funding has not yet permitted this (see our funding drive).

These improvements complete the areas covered by our Sustainable City Grant, which funded a range of improvements that we have reported on via this blog over the last year. We'd like to thank them again for their support, which many users have benefited from.

If you can volunteer your time to help with further design work, do let us know!

Journey planner

The route result page should be much clearer now:

Journey planner page

The first thing we changed was to make it much clearer, in various ways, that there were a set of route choices available, one of the primary features of our route planner distinguishing it from more traditional car routing websites. This is an innovation we pioneered back in 2006, and is a concept now being used by other sites.

Secondly, we've made the map as large as we can fit for the current site width. We've had a lot of feedback about the size of the map panel, and would like to increase this still further with more radical changes to the design. We plan to move to a more fluid width design when funding or volunteer time permits (do let us know if you can help with design work).

A further key change has been to clean up the mish-mash of metadata about the route into a more easily-scannable and attractive set of information about the routing.

The CO2 saving compared to an equivalent car route is also now shown, again thanks to the Sustainable City grant.

Photomap

The Photomap browsing page now uses a much wider size, with mini bubbles enabling quicker previewing of photos:

Photomap page

The image location page has been redesigned to show off the image much better (at size 640px), and move the less important details of the image to be less distracting.

We hope to add photo commenting soon.

Location page

Implementation

Many of these changes took a while to implement as there were a lot of knock-on code changes (the area of the code concerned had become rather 'evolved', so to speak!).

We hope you like the changes and will find they make the system easier to use. We will add more changes as time and funding allow.

A year of photos from CycleStreets

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

CycleStreets, the cycle journey planning people, will this year be publishing a photo a day – from the CycleStreets Photomap containing over 25,000 cycling-related photos submitted by our users.

Either by checking the front page of the site, or by following the @CycleStreets channel on Twitter, people will get our selection of the best photo taken that day in previous years.

The CycleStreets Photomap is a brilliant resource for cycle campaigners – and one which people can contribute to, either via the website or via the CycleStreets iPhone app (Android and mobile HTML versions are being worked on too).

As well as a range of quirky, interesting and unusual pictures, there are masses of pictures of good and bad infrastructure that campaigning groups around the country will find useful. Groups like Cambridge Cycling Campaign have often found the resource immensely useful, as it has enabled examples of best practice to be shared, and evidence of problems to be published so that they can be drawn to the attention of the authorities.

Martin, one of the people developing the CycleStreets site, said:

"We hope to surprise people daily with a range of interesting, useful and sometimes downright quirky images. Tune in to our twitter channel to discover something new each day. And if you're quick, photos added on the day may get picked as the best one."

All the pictures have been contributed by users of the site – and naturally they retain rights to the photos, though many are public domain or Share-Alike, making them re-usable for fellow campaigners. To add a photo, just click on the link at www.cyclestreets.net/photomap and upload away! Photos can also be imported from Flickr, and the CycleStreets iPhone app lets you upload on-street when you come across a problem needing fixing – or something unusual.

CycleStreets is also seeking funding through our Funding Drive to improve the Photomap to make it as useful and user-friendly as possible.

Here's a selection of photos from the Photomap. Check our front page or tune into our Twitter channel for a new one each day!

The Netherlands shows us how cycle infrastructure should be done

Beauty and the bike

Shameful unloading – in a busy contraflow cycle lane

Boris Bikes about to be redistributed from Waterloo

Newcastle Millennium Bridge

Cycle-powered advertising in Canelones, Uruguay

Hopeless wheelbender parking

5 bikes to 1 stand here!

Click on each photo to view details and attribution

CycleParking4London update

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

London Cycling Campaign's www.cycleparking4london.org.uk website, which we helped create, is continuing to see requests for new cycle parking locations pouring in.

The site enables members of the public to submit suggestions of places needing cycle parking, which will then be used by local campaigners.

As well as going to the main site itself, you can use the CycleStreets iPhone app (and soon our Android app) to add locations where cycle parking is needed or is deficient in some way:

   

   

The last two screenshots show the process of adding a photo.

For those in Cambridgeshire, you can go to www.CyclingSorted.org which is a site we created for Cambridgeshire County Council.

New cycle parking website for London launched

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

We're proud to announce the launch of a website we helped create for London Cycling Campaign:

www.cycleparking4london.org.uk

specifically, the 'suggest a location' page. The design of the site and other content is by LCC itself.

The site enables members of the public to submit suggestions of places needing cycle parking, which will then be used by local campaigners. Some 500 locations have already been submitted!

The site is very much along the same lines as www.CyclingSorted.org which we created for Cambridgeshire County Council.

We're keen to do similar sites for Local Authorities around the country, if funding is available.

CyclingSorted.org – new site for Cambridgeshire County Council

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

We’re helping get Cycling Sorted, thanks to a new site we’ve created for Cambridgeshire County Council which has recently been launched!

Cycling Sorted

Cycling Sorted is a project run by the Cycle Cambridge team at Cambridgeshire County Council to find out where you would like to make improvements to cycling facilities in Cambridge and the surrounding villages, in terms of new cycle parking and removing on-route obstructions.

How does it work?

The site allows members of the public (including cycle campaigners) to:

  • easily request and identify where you think additional cycle parking is needed
  • flag up obstructions on cycle routes and infrastructure.

While not everything requested can realistically be done, it’s an easy way to collect and prioritise the information from the people who know the area best – you!

Photos that have already been added to the CycleStreets Photomap will have been picked up, so there’s no need to re-enter those.

So if you have a suggestion for where cycle parking could be added, or would like obstructions removed, go and help get Cycling Sorted, at www.cyclingsorted.org to let Cambridgeshire County Council know!

What’s unique about Cycling Sorted?

There are three key differences with Cycling Sorted compared to other great initiatives like FixMyStreet and Fill That Hole:

  • Firstly, it’s intended for both absent infrastructure, i.e. desired infrastructure (e.g. lack of cycle parking) as well as reporting problems with existing infrastructure;
  • Secondly, it is intended to enable the Council to deal easily with prioritisation of problems, rather than just addressing them as they come in;
  • Lastly, it is dedicated to cycling infrastructure only.

The prioritisation system

There is a backend prioritisation system to which the Local Authority has access.

This part of the system enables prioritisation of each area by scoring and adding a note:

  • A score for desirability
  • A score for feasibility
  • Notes about progress
  • And a response to the public, which will appear later on www.cyclingsorted.org.

Prioritisation is worked through in submission order or by browsing a map and clicking on a button to edit all the suggestions in the area:

   

For instance, a city centre area which is desperately short of cycle parking might get 9/10 for desirability, but 2/10 for feasibility due to lack of space (realistically). Thus its score would be 18. By contrast, an area outside a row of shops on, say, Hills Road in Cambridge (a reasonably wide road with lots of shops) is fairly desirable (perhaps 8/10) as well as very achievable due to the wider pavements and side-roads (8/10). So in this hypothetical example, it would get a score of 64.

There is then a screen where the scored locations are listed in order (highest score first, i.e. most desirable and achievable), and these are then worked through for political approval and commissioning with contractors.

How about other areas of the country?

If your Local Authority would also be interested in a similar site for asking the public for locations needing improvement, and a way to prioritise these, do get in touch with us. We are keen to take on work to generalise the system for other areas.

PS We’re also working on a project on a similar theme for London … more news soon!

What we’re working on …

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

This summer has been ridiculous busy for us. We've had a large number of projects, which has felt a little overwhelming at times!

Simon is our 'routemaster', and he's been working solidly over recent months on a range of improvements to the journey planning engine:

  • Main focus has been speeding up the routing engine performance. Thanks to the generous grant from the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, Simon has been able to dedicate a lot more time than usual on this aspect, such that the system is now fast enough and scalable for mobile usage with a lot more traffic. We're finishing off a final improvement to reduce the response time further.
  • Working on improving the translation from OpenStreetMap (OSM) into our optimised routing network format (codename 'Cello');
  • Working to fix the 'ferry routing bug' (where routes in London sometimes end up using the Thames ferries rather than cycling!);
  • Reducing wigglyness of routes – which is becoming our main focus as the performance work is concluded;
  • Speeding up the import time so that we can reflect changes in OSM more quickly. (We're a little way off 'live routing' but that's our ultimate aim!);
  • Simon will then be moving on to supporting more advanced data types in OpenStreetMap.

Martin, who tends to deal with usability, code structure and the project management side of CycleStreets, has been working on a range of things:

  • A problem-reporting system for Cambridge,  www.cyclingsorted.org – which has just been launched and which we'll blog about soon
  • Managing mobile app development, with our iPhone app about to be released (and Android offerings hopefully very soon after – thanks to our volunteers working on that!)
  • Starting work on a mobile HTML version of the site … stay tuned!
  • New interfaces that use the same database, e.g. www.londoncyclehire.org and others (watch out for blog posts on this soon)
  • Working on adding bikeshop data views to the system
  • Reworking the Photomap interfaces (thanks to funding from Sustainable City)
  • Work which will enable the map size to be increased and related interfaces improved (ditto)
  • Adding new functions to our API (used by mobile and other developers)
  • A large amount of cleaning up the code behind-the-scenes. Over time, the codebase has had structural problems which has meant adding new functionality and design changes had become too time-consuming. Much of this is now done, but you won't have noticed any changes – other than (hopefully) things appearing faster! This has really been the enabling work for a lot of other projects.
  • A London-based project to deal with the cycle parking deficit across the city, to be announced shortly!
  • Information for Local Authorities
  • Grant funding applications (we could definitely do with a fundraiser still!)
  • Shortly starting work on a better feedback interface to make this area and map-based rather than table-based.

We've obviously also other voluneers working on various areas including:

  • Working on the mobile versions
  • Responding to feedback
  • Bike-shop related things for OpenStreetMap, using data we brokered
  • Various outreach opportunities

Photomap contributors’ usernames now shown

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

When adding a photo and associated comment to our Photomap, your username is now shown on the page.

This applies to new contributions added from today onwards.

For existing photos, contributors have been notified that this change will be applied to those images on 19th September (i.e. one month from today).

We are happy to change usernames or to split groups of photos into different usernames if wanted by users.

This change effectively brings CycleStreets into line with most other sites like YouTube, Flickr and others, which allow user contributions. Most photos have the CC-BY-SA license, which basically allows others to re-use the photo, but only if attributed. But at present there is no way of attributing.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us. As contributors to the system ourselves, user privacy is a very important concern to us.

We're gradually rolling out changes to the Photomap as a result of a large code-cleanup that is taking place behind the scenes, and will report on these changes here soon!

CycleStreets mobile app: almost there now!

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Our mobile app is nearing completion. Unfortunately the schedule slipped by a month as we were keen to complete our backend work to ensure the routing was fast enough to support it, something that is now in place. Also, we've been held up slightly by EXIF-related issues (so that uploaded photos get the correct position even if they were taken a while ago).

Here are screenshots from the latest work in progress, with a few bug fixes due to be implemented by mid-August before we submit to Apple.

Thanks to everyone who has offered to be a beta-tester. We'll be in touch soon – sorry for not acknowledging each offer individually yet!

We've lots of ideas for new features to go in a future release after the initial release. We'd like to create a team of two or three volunteers to work on the app on an ongoing basis. If you'd be interested, please do get in touch.

Planning a route:

Following a route:

Browsing the Photomap:

Adding photos to the Photomap:

Settings and other pages:

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

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