This article was published in 2009, in Newsletter 84.
We are pleased to announce, at long last, the launch of CycleStreets, the UK-wide photomap and cycle journey planner ‘for cyclists, by cyclists’. Developed by Simon Nuttall and Martin Lucas-Smith from the Campaign, it is a national version of our previous online journey planner. It is now being developed as a project separate from the Campaign, but one which the Campaign will continue to make heavy use of.
We planned to launch the new website back in October 2008. However, we decided that the speed of the system was not fast enough, and so we spent several months developing a series of changes to make route-planning faster. Routes anywhere in the UK typically take 5-10 seconds to plan now, faster than the old system that was limited to Cambridge only!
We are grateful to Mythic Beasts (www.mythic-beasts.com), our hosting company, who kindly provided us with a free development server, and to colleagues in Edinburgh who have sourced grant funding for the most recent development work.
Cycle journey planner
The journey planner asks you to click on a start point and an end point for your journey. (You can also enter road names, places, and postcodes.) You’ll then get a journey listing, showing the fastest, quietest or shortest route. Different cyclists prefer different road conditions, and we have tried to cater for that.
Feedback on the routes it produces is most welcome. Even if there is some small oddity about a route that you are aware of, please let us know. We are currently working our way through hundreds of very useful feedback submissions from the cycling community, and we are enormously grateful to people who have provided these. We have already fixed a number of problems, and are keen to make the routes as sensible as possible.
The Photomap allows anyone to add photos of problems (e.g. enforcement problems, or lack of cycle parking) or good practice. Galleries – linking together specific photos – can be created. When adding a photo, you are asked to add a caption, and also specify the topic, e.g. cycle parking / enforcement / obstructions etc. These then enable the automatic listings of, for instance, all the cycle parking problems in Cambridge. With around 17,000 images added so far, this is becoming an increasingly useful campaigning tool, and we have plans to develop it further.
The journey planner will (hopefully by the time you read this) show photos taken along the route, so you can see what a route is like before you cycle on it!
Where do we get the street mapping data from?
The data which we use for routing have come from the excellent OpenStreetMap project (www.openstreetmap.org). This means it is not subject to onerous licensing conditions and prohibitive costs, unlike Ordnance Survey data. OpenStreetMap contributors collect road data by cycling (or driving) around and logging where they go using a GPS system. Indeed, David Earl – one of the Campaign’s committee – rode every street in Cambridge, most of South Cambridgeshire and all the surrounding market towns as part of this effort. (See Newsletter 69.)
We then translate the information from OpenStreetMap into something that CycleStreets can use to produce routes quickly. The Help pages explain how we do this.
We plan to create a project team of programmers, basically people who can help improve the code. We plan to open source the system in due course. If you are interested and want to find out more, please do get in touch.
Groups around the country can also request customised versions of CycleStreets specific to their area. For instance, the Cambridge version is at http://cambridge.cyclestreets.net/. We can also provide versions for Local Authorities for a fee, and are working up plans for this.
We are also seeking funding and would welcome offers of money to pay for consultancy work to implement new features and improve the routing. CycleStreets is being set up as a not-for-profit company.
Feedback of all types is very welcome – please do get in touch, via the feedback page on www.cyclestreets.net