It is no secret that we at MountainMath like bikes. And maps. And open data and sharing. We guess you know where this is going. Vancouver has finally gotten a bike share system, and we are loving it. So we took the occasion to take our old bike infrastructure maps, polished them up a bit using Mapzen’s bike map style and adapted it for our purposes. The result is our Vancouver Bike Share Map.
Last week Mapzen announced that they included bike data in their OSM vector tiles. That’s just what the doctor ordered to continue on my path towards the perfect bike map that I started on, explored routing and looked at improving OSM bike data. Now that I don’t need to extract bike data myself any more it is time to take these maps global. And maybe add some minor improvements. To make the bike map boils down to deciding what OSM roads, paths, etc to map and how to map them.
Maps live and die with the quality of the underlying data. So I decided to dive a little deeper down the OSM bike data rabbit hole. Task number one was to expand display data for a wider region. My primitive workflow to pull data out of OSM only allows for extracting a quarter of a degree at a time. For playing around with all of Vancouver’s data I again turned to Mapzen for their metro extracts as a convenient shortcut for OSM data.
Routing is a hard problem. Routing for drivers is pretty good at this point, mostly because we have been very good at designing for cars and creating predicable infrastructure. Routing for bikes is a whole other story, data quality is poor and the physical infrastructure is, at least in North America, not strongly predictive of cycling comfort/safety. And cycling comfort/safety is the top priority for the vast majority of (potential) cyclists.
Here come some general thoughts on bike maps. Not throught through yet, just jotting down some ideas so that I don’t forget and maybe to start a discussion. Bike enthusiasts, OSM folks and mapping technology wonks read on! Why make a new bike map? Plainly put, I don’t like a lot of the bike maps out there. Time for my little bike map rant: Lots of maps don’t accomplish their core mission: accurately map bike infrastructure.