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Reimagining the Bike Map: Designing a Better Bike Map

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#1
mjfoster

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First in a new series on designing improved, clean, and effective bike maps.

 

http://www.graphicar...ike-map-part-1/

 

I know we have some bikers in this group, pass along your local bike maps!  Post Two will include a survey of a selection of bike maps and a discussion on the current state of bike mapping around the world.

 

Happy Mapping,

 

-Mike


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#2
Hans van der Maarel

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I've always thought Pete from Inverness made some really awesome bike maps: http://www.cartotalk...?showtopic=5861

 

And for last year's NACIS Map Quilt I decided to do a bike map (since I'm a cyclist and it was in Portland, apparently the most bike-friendly city in the US):


Attached File  Map_Hans_van_der_Maarel_small.jpg   324.81KB   37 downloads


Edited by Hans van der Maarel, 10 June 2013 - 02:25 AM.
replaced attachment for a rgb version

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#3
dvd mccutcheon

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You are right about Pete's maps Hans, very effective. I wish there were such things when I was racing!

 

This isn't one of mine, but a friends map of Cycle routes in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds.

 

David

 

https://twitter.com/...7203329/photo/1


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#4
Hans van der Maarel

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You are right about Pete's maps Hans, very effective. I wish there were such things when I was racing!

 

I'm not racing myself, but I do ride sportives from time to time and I like to go and watch races. The deplorable state of the maps being used at such events is something that really bugs me. Bad screenshots of Google Maps with something scrawled on it in Paint.

 

There was a local Men's U23 race in my area yesterday. The course was quite confusing, winding its way through the municpality, passing by certain places more than once.  It was so confusing even the guys who had to take care of the arrows didn't know what they were doing. They started removing them right after the last support cars had passed, only to have spectators tell them that they'd pass by again within 15 minutes... The map on the website was the one from last year, you had to download the route book to get the 2013 map (the course description sent to the local newspaper was correct, except that the expected times were half an hour off...)

 

While with a bit of time and effort a nice looking and actually useful map can be produced... Here's one I did for a club ride a few months ago:

 

Attached File  Kaart-WBCA-23-3-2013-presentatie-(v1).jpg   157.7KB   33 downloads


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#5
Hans van der Maarel

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Here's one for a pro (UCI 2.1) race starting later this week: http://www.sterzlmto..._21-05-2013.gif

 

At least the image is crisp and clear... Oh, and it looks like I can catch them two or three times, that should be fun.


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#6
Matthew Hampton

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Great topic!  I enjoyed reading the first part (1 of 3) on your blog.  We have been working through similar issues on our regional bike map for the Portland area and I am happy to share some points we have learned along the way and very interested to read parts 2 and 3.  

 

There are all sorts of folks who use bike maps (young, old, 1st timers, pros, etc.) for different reasons (commuting to work/school, recreational distance riding, family outings, etc.) and taking those into consideration helps determine the focus and definition of the design.  I tend to think scale, audience and purpose are the biggest factors for driving bike map design.  We did some focus group testing in 2009 and I learned a lot!  In many cases, I think cartographers who design bike maps are cyclists themselves and tend to design for themselves and not the general public (ie. your Mom's friend's neighbor).  We have tried to design for everyone and everything which leads to some compromises, but as our regional bike network matures, so does our map.

 

In addition to cycling infrastructure (bike lanes, cycle tracks, etc.), our maps have included a suitability rating - warning cyclists of more dangerous streets and providing some best routes through areas on low-traffic streets.  I've attached the legend we put on our latest map (circa 2009) as well as a screenshot of our printed map (the visual hierarchy work better upon the Polyart on which it's printed).  I am intrigued to define the primary utility of printed vs. electronic bike maps and the designs inherent to their success.

 

Attached File  BikeThereLegend.png   80.73KB   26 downloads  Attached File  BikeTherePDX_closeup.png   1.26MB   33 downloads


co-cartographic creator of boringmaps.com


#7
Dennis McClendon

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Here are three examples of my work in the Chicago area.  Left to right:

 

City of Chicago Drawn entirely by hand in FreeHand.  Recommended routes in orange, blue casings for shared lanes, purple casings for separated lanes, wide purple line for off-street routes.  Bike shops represented by a spoked wheel.

 

Chicago region  Background streets from GIS data but all other layers redrawn to be more accurate, look better, or for displacement.  Hierarchy from yellow to orange to red to purple.  Off-road trails in blue (gravel) or purple (paved). The orange hexagons are bike shops.

 

Kane County  Background streets from GIS (MicroStation files, so nice smooth curves) but other layers mostly redrawn.  Hierarchy red (caution) to orange to ocher to dark green (safe).  Off-road facilities (mostly sidewalk sidepaths) shown in purple.  I don't like all the dashed lines (future facilities) but that was the client's call.

 

MQ5ZGs2.jpg

 

I did a presentation at NACIS 2001 exploring the hierarchy of line colors on bike maps.  I have no psychographic research studies, but I'm guided by two basic tenets:

  • Keep the color progression on one side of the color wheel (cool or warm) so the user sees it as a progression more than a distinction.  The network needs to hang together to emphasize the ease of making an end-to-end trip more than the differing conditions en route.  The difference between cycling LOS B and LOS C is pretty subjective, after all, and we shouldn't suggest false precision.
  • Dark warm colors come to the foreground.  This means the red-means-caution/green-means-good color scheme favored by many state DOTs ends up emphasizing all the roads you shouldn't cycle on—hardly the way to promote cycling among suburbanites.  You see this in the Kane County example, where I made a strong argument but the client felt they would better cover their ass by doing the same thing the state DOT had done.

Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
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#8
skorasaurus

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Great post Mike, and good discussion so far.

Here's the my local planning agency's bicycling map. http://www.noaca.org/cuybike.pdf

Although I'm a relatively active inner-city rider, a couple times a week, I haven't made a bicycling map yet.

One thing that I've wondered about is how to factor in the quality of the pavement/surface of the road for a bicyling map. In Cleveland, the quality of the surface of the roads vary drastically. Because of changing temperatures and use of rock salt to melt snow and ice in the winter, here's many potholes on city streets - craters that can be more than 2-3 inches deep and 12 inches across. I've had a flat or 2 as a result of them. Although it's not the only factor in determining the quality of a road for bicyclists, it's an important one that I've seen neglected too often. How do you choose to represent the surface ?

As Matt mentioned, I also believe many bike maps are focused on more advanced riders who are comfortable with riding in main streets that have traffic of 35mph, the possibility to get doored, and relatively busy intersections.



#9
mjfoster

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Awesome discussion! And some beautiful maps.

 

While researching, I came across the Barclays Bike Highways of London:

 

http://www.tfl.gov.u...rs/bcs2-map.pdf

 

Planning on discussing this in the next post, but what was notable to me was the variable scale across the map by time (notice the little pink vertical lines and their inconsistent distance), and lack of a ground scale other than this time scale and a distance.  To me this seemed a stroke of genius, I don't have a odometer on my bike, but I track time.  The one catch is that people travel at such variable speeds, so I'm not sure how it holds up.

 

Has anyone done any experimenting with these variable scales or other non-traditional scales that might be more appropriate?


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#10
DaveB

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Interesting discussion. As an occasional casual bicyclist I want to be able to clearly see the full route I want to follow and know that I can get from my starting point to my ending point while avoiding heavy car traffic, steep hills, and poor road conditions. Sometimes I'm riding to get from one place to another. Other times I'm riding just to ride, from a starting point and back again. One thing that a lot of these maps seem to reveal to me is the disconnection or gaps in many routes, where you can't avoid some of the hazards, either not at all or only by going out of your way.

I actually like the simplicity of that Barclays Bike Highway map. That shows me a single route with clear indications of conditions and side streets and the total length of that particular route. I think that sort of map would make an excellent compliment to a more holistic map of an area. I could see using the area map for planning/perusing at home, and the strip map while actually out on a ride.


Dave Barnes
Esri
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Map Geek

#11
chris henrick

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Great topic, thanks for posting. 

 

I have known cyclist friends who have often been frustrated by bicycle maps; it seems a lot of times they are either complaining about them being too hard to read (showing too much detail and/or a difficult to read color scheme) or not having enough information (such as a regional map not showing enough local roads). 

 

The incorporation of local knowledge is important as well. I've heard of organizations doing studies on where people actually choose to ride in relationship to where an officially designated bicycle route is. Portland comes to mind where the majority of bicycle routes are on local/residential roads, which makes them pleasant to ride on but perhaps not always the most direct option. Many of the arterial roads in Portland are not bicycle friendly though cyclists may prefer them over cycling routes for the direct commute. Having been an urban cyclist for the past 13 years, and a bicycle messenger for 3 of those, I have done my fair share of cycling on the worst roads one could possibly imagine for a bicyclist (I even was kicked off a freeway once in Spain). If such a road or route exists not as an "official cycling route" should it be represented on a map as well? 

 

Another design challenge that comes to mind which I haven't seen discussed yet in this thread is the map's physical size. The Adventure Cycling Association not only does a remarkable job at designing cycling maps, but their maps' size conforms to fit inside a handle bar bag. This works because each of their maps are created for a specific route and don't show much area off the route, so this probably wouldn't work well for an entire urban area. One solution to this I've considered is creating a "London UnderGround" type of bicycle map that would serve as a quick overview of which routes connect to which points of interest and neighborhoods, thereby diliberately choosing to not adhere to a traditional map scheme but utilizing more of an info graphic convention. Such a map could fit in a pocket or handlebar bag and serve as a reference rather than a highly detailed DOT or USGS topo style map. Detailed regional maps are great for planning a trip, but not easy to glance at while on the road.

 

Never have I tried using my smart phone as a navigational tool when riding, though I have seen them mounted on handle bars by some cyclists to be used as a GPS. The advantage of planning a route and generating a "cue sheet" (list of directions with mileage and turns) that could be toggled from the map view would be very helpful with such a set up.

 

Finally, having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 5 years until recently moving to NYC, I've found many people to be partial to the East Bay Bicycle Coalition's maps: https://www.ebbc.org/maps

 

Just my thoughts :) and Mike your Central Minneapolis Bikeway System map is excellent; I approve of the greyed out background information that has been appropriately generalized while having the cycling routes stand out through the use of highly saturated colors. This makes the map very easy to read and understand. Nice work!

 

-Chris


-Chris

#12
aallen

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Enjoy the thread, big time. I have been researching doing some trip maps for my area and beyond. Up in BC its pretty much mountain biking but there are some good trips that head to Washington or Circuits around Gulf Islands. I came across the WSDOT bike ways and found that excellent, going to have to draft a proposal to our simple minded politicians to see if they would be interested in providing a simlier service of hosting transportation alternatives.


Andrew Allen






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