Putting the best bike routes ‘on the map’
The Dynamic Connections Map. Image courtesy of BMW Guggenheim Lab.
In 2011 I conducted a bicycle route options analysis in Australia for a public sector client who thought the number of options would be limited. I agreed, but our team – fearless, enthusiastic, and novice bicycle riders – set out and cycled every street in the study area nonetheless. We colour-coded each street based on our cycling experience and, using five assessment criteria, discovered there were many more options than everyone had first anticipated. Our client was thrilled with our tactical experimentation, but unfortunately our paper map had limited usage.
So when I was approached to produce an “Out In The City” project in Berlin for the urban design think-tank BMW Guggenheim Lab last year, I leapt at the opportunity to take my initial experiment with bicycle maps to the next level.
The result was the Dynamic Connections Map, a world-first experiment to crowd-source and crowd-solve cycling, using an interactive map based in the city of Berlin.
While traditional mapping efforts show current conditions and what type of bicycle infrastructure is located on given roads, the Dynamic Connections Map allows confident, regular and potential bicycle riders to assess the current Berlin biking network, rate streets on how cycle friendly they are and, as a result of data processing, unlock a potential future cycle network.
Participants are asked to select a road or street by clicking on the Google-based map provided. The following two questions ask the respondent if they think the traffic volumes, vehicle speeds, number of parked cars, visibility at intersections, and topography on the selected road/street are ‘bicycle friendly’ and if the road/street selected provides good access to a large number of destinations.
The final two questions ask participants if they feel safe, neutral or stressed when cycling through intersections and when riding a bike on the selected street. The information collected is processed using an algorithm that designates each street to be either bicycle-friendly (green) or unfriendly (red). Participants, planners, policy-makers, and people interested in cycling can filter the data to meet their own personal needs.
This project excites me because many people – not just engineers – are auditing existing bike networks. They are assessing existing streets that don’t have facilities, and effectively creating a map as a community of streets that are safest for cycling. And, as Christine McLaren, the BMW Guggenheim Lab blogger wrote, “perhaps their most glaring shortcoming of all bike maps is that they also fail to recognise that even if the ‘official’ routes are the best option (which they often aren’t), every now and then we need to leave the official network of cycling infrastructure in order to get to the places we need to go. We don’t just need information about bike routes. We need information about every route.”
What do you think? Do you have a favourite cycle route, or want to check out the Dynamic Connections Map? Start with your local street today. Access instructions on how to use the map here.
Rachel Smith is an internationally-recognised urban planner and commentator, and principal transport planner with AECOM’s Brisbane office. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter, or follow her blog here.