Posts Tagged ‘bike maps’

Google Map Maker video highlights Detroit bicycling

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Google released a video on their Map Maker software a little over a week ago. The video focuses on how we’ve used their program to update Google Maps with the latest bicycling and trail information.

Hailed as the birthplace of the automotive revolution, the city of Detroit, Mich. is taking its transportation legacy down new paths. As Detroit embraces a greener, non-motorized outlook, cycling is steadily increasing in popularity. The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance is facilitating this transition by creating an interconnected statewide system of trails and greenways, including the development of bike paths throughout the Detroit area.

How did this come about?

First it began when I became heavily involved in updating the bicycling and trail information in Map Maker. I began in the city of Detroit but slowly progressed across all of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties. Google tracks how many edits contributors make and this work put me near the top of those in this region. They were having a North American Google Map Maker conference in Montreal and they invited me.

At the conference I had the opportunity to share stories of our work in Detroit, which left a positive impression. Google contacted me afterwards about making Detroit part of their upcoming promotional video.

As one can tell by the quality of the video, this was not some small project. At one point their were nine other people in my home office for a video shoot. They shot video for three days at locations across Detroit, including the Heidelberg Project, Belle Isle, Dequindre Cut, RiverWalk, Spirit of Hope urban garden, and even the Ambassador Bridge for the Bike the Bridge event. Some of the most dramatic shots were taken from a helicopter.

Of course the East Side Riders looked great in the video as well.

Though Detroit’s bicycle and trail info is quite up to date, there’s other mapping work that can be done – and it’s something everyone can do using Map Maker.

Others are also working on printed Detroit bike maps as well as Open Street Maps. We’re not done!

The Detroit News, MLive, and the Huffington Post also covered this story.

Your thoughts on a Detroit bicycle & greenway map

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

What would be helpful information to include on a Southwest Detroit greenway/bicycle map?

Schools, libraries, transit stops, bike shops, and parks are commonly shown on such maps.

We’ve reviewed maps from six different cities (Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Montreal, and St. Louis) and compiled a list of what each includes.

Each are unique. Austin’s map shows swimming pools. Chicago highlights open metal grate bridges. Montreal and Boston show ferry service. Austin and Cleveland show how steep the roads are.

All of the maps show off-road trails. Except for Austin, all of the maps show the types of bicycle facilities on the roads, e.g. bike lanes, bike routes, etc.

The Austin map is unique in that it doesn’t show the facilities. Instead it assigns a comfort level to the road based on the existing bicycle facilities.

The roads marked HIGHcomfort level have either bicycle accommodations or low traffic volumes and speeds. On MEDIUM sections, you may find bicycle accommodations on high-speed roads, or shared-lanes on roads with moderate speeds and volumes. The LOW comfort level designates important connections with traffic volumes and speeds, and no bicycle accommodations. VERY LOW roads are not recommended for bike travel, but may still be necessary for some trips.

Of course the provide a disclaimer as well.

Cleveland’s map employs a similar mechanism based on bicycle skill level: basic, intermediate, experienced. They also highlight roads “no suitable for bicyclist but there may be no alternative route.” Of course they define what each skill level means.

Best Approach?

What do you think makes a bicycle and greenway map most useful?

It would be easiest putting only the bicycle facilities on the map, but designating roads by comfort level or bicycle skill level adds more information and is in more layman terms. It’s more work to do the latter – more data collection from cyclists, more vetting of preferred routes.

However, with so many of the city of Detroit streets having high comfort but not bicycle accommodations, perhaps this would produce a better map.

What are your thoughts?

Improving the Google Maps bicycling layer

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Last week was the Google Map Maker North American Conference in Montreal.

What is Map Maker? It’s a web-based tool that lets you modify and add to Google Maps.

However, unlike Wikipedia, there is a change review process. New users can expect all of their changes to require a review while more experienced users can get some changes published immediately.

What changes can made? The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance has added missing pathways for the Detroit RiverWalk, Conner Creek Greenway, and Midtown Loop. All of the City’s bike lanes were added. There were also a number of trails shown for Detroit that simply don’t exist or are sidewalks. Those were removed.

The Google bicycling layer, which is selectable in Google Maps is now looking fairly accurate. We’re using it on this site with an overlay of bike parking locations.

Nonetheless, there are some improvements Google could make to improve their bicycle and trail data.

Here are some suggestions that were shared with their development team at the Montreal Conference.

  • Show unpaved roads differently – This would make it easier for road bikers to determine their routes.
  • Bicycle routing – Similarly, it would be useful if bicyclists could get biking directions using only paved surfaces if they prefer. This would be similar to the motorist directions which let you avoid expressways.
  • Add more trail surface descriptions – The popular crushed limestone surface seen on trails like the Paint Creek isn’t an option when describing a trail surface.
  • Add paved shoulders – Google Maps lets you describe bike lanes on a road, but not paved shoulders that make biking more desirable. For example, Edward Hines Drive should not be shown with bike lanes based on Google’s map policies.
  • Add bike racks – Points of interest can be added to Google Maps, but there’s not a category for bike racks. We heard that it will be available in the future.
  • Add abandoned rail corridors – There isn’t a way of properly showing abandoned rail corridors on the map. This is perhaps more useful for planners than riders, but it would be useful to add.
  • Exporting data – If we put all the bike rack locations in Google Maps, we want to be able to pull it back out. That information is needed for Bicycle Friendly Community applications. It would also be useful if we Google Maps could tell us the miles of bike lanes or trail within a city.

The U.S. Bicycle Routes were discussed. Those can be added now. For example, we’ve added the Conner Creek Greenway name to its on-road segments, e.g. ?St. Jean.

There was also a question of bicycles using ferry service. At the time, it was unclear if that was integrated into Google’s bicycle routing software. A different Google development team is responsible for routing (as well as rendering.)

However, getting bike directions from Detroit to Windsor does take you to the ferry in Algonac. City hall to city hall is 127 miles by bike — or 2 by car.

Mapping delays

One word of warning. There is a delay from the time your change is published in Map Maker to the time it shows up on Google Maps. That delay is dependent on many factors, including the size of the change and where the change is made.

There’s also a delay before changes affect the routing. Google’s bike routing tries taking advantage of trails, bike lanes, and preferred bicycle routes. If you add these features in Map Maker, it can take up to a couple months before the routing routines know about them. The Google engineers said there were working on reducing this delay.


Underground Railroad Bicycle Route gatherings

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

The second of two maps for the Underground Railroad Detroit Alternative Bicycle Route are now available.

As you may recall, this Adventure Cycling bicycle route begins in Mobile, Alabama and heads north to Oberlin, Ohio. Previously the route only went east, entering Ontario at Buffalo. The Detroit alternative route heads to Toledo, Adrian, Ann Arbor, and Detroit.

“We’re thrilled to offer this new alternate route between Oberlin and Owen Sound. Cyclists can now experience even more landmarks and historically important communities along the Underground Railroad,” said Carla Majernik, Adventure Cycling’s routes and mapping director. “The route also follows the Lake Huron shoreline to Owen Sound, which is an incredibly scenic ride.”

Detroit is an important highlight on the new route for its historic relevance and its contemporary efforts to improve conditions for cyclists,” said Ginny Sullivan, special projects director and lead staff on the UGRR project. “Increasingly the city has invested in bike lanes, greenways, urban agriculture, and natural parks, making it an even more attractive stopover for touring cyclists on the new route.”

Running through many smaller communities in northwestern Ohio, southern Michigan, and southern Ontario, the Detroit Alternate creates a cultural heritage corridor that not only offers education and recreational opportunities for people of all ages, but also promises increased tourism to the communities along this iconic corridor.

Unfortunately bicyclists cannot currently get across the Detroit River without a car, so the route heads north to the ferry service in Marine City, Michigan.

This week’s events

Adventure Cycling’s executive director Jim Sayer is coming to Detroit to help promote the new maps. You’re welcomed to attend these events, but please RSVP as they are starting to fill up.

  • Wednesday, February 22 – Troy, Michigan
    Regional gathering from 7-9 pm at the Troy, MI REI — 766 E Big Beaver Rd. Troy, MI.
  • Thursday, February 23 – Midtown Detroit
    Mixer and regional gathering from 5:30-7:30 pm at Traffic Jam and Snug — 511 W Canfield St. Detroit, MI.

Sayer will also be on the Craig Fahle Show on Thursday as well as (hopefully) many other media outlets, especially with it being Black History Month.

New bike tour loops

Always thinking for new excuses to bike tour, Adventure Cycling blogged about how this new route opens up some tour loop possibilities.

This tour could easily begin in Detroit, cross the border to Windsor, Ontario, ride south to Leamington or Kingsville, take a ferry to Sandusky, Ohio then ride northward to return to Detroit. The fly in the ointment in this idea, hence the Chance label, is that currently there is no way to ride your bicycle across the border between Detroit and Windsor. In order to do so, you’ll have to hire a taxi to take you and your bicycle from one country to the other. Todd Scott, Detroit Greenways Coordinator at the Michigan Trails and Greenway Alliance?suggests, “Another option is to use the Transit Windsor bus. They will allow bikes on the bus under some restrictive rules, however, the bus drivers do have some discretion. If the bus is not crowded and the bike can be secured on board, they may take you. If I were doing the route, I would try my darndest to get to Windsor. I just wouldn’t want to miss out on their UGRR history.” There are plans to add ferry service to this border crossing. When it is implemented, we’ll let you know.

To complete this 270 mile tour you’ll need UGRR Detroit Alternate Sections #1 & #2 maps.

New Detroit bike map and parking

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

You may have noticed a new menu item on the web site for Bike Map+Parking. This is a new Detroit bicycle map showing where many bike racks are within the city.

The map itself is the Google Maps bicycle layer, which is looking fairly accurate now. You can zoom in, scroll around, use Streetview, etc.

The bike parking information comes from Wayne State University, the Southwest Detroit Business Association, and a whole bunch of riding around and taking photos. There are one or more bike racks at each of the 201 documented locations, shown as a red dot.

Clicking on a red dot opens a window with more information and in most cases a photo.

If you have bike parking information, please forward it to the email, Only Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park information is being collected.

The Detroit data will be used in a Bicycle Friendly Community application, which is really was spurred this project.