Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bikely.com for cycling routes

I reflect on our route mapping endeavours in 2004 during which we wanted to create cycling maps with annotations and indications of safety for cyclists. The methods at the time were time-consuming or copyright restrictions were inclear so we sat back and let technology catch up. Eventually Google Earth/Google Maps and Bikely.com has come to the rescue for most of our needs. I thought I should add this note to explain our per-bikely map trail on the internet!

"The Bicycle Route Mapping Project" (2004)

In 2004, Paul Barter discussed a Bicycle Route Mapping Project with the rest of us in this "Cycling in Singapore" blog.

The project intended to assist cyclists in choosing safe routes to commute using a colour coded overlay on a map which indicated the relative safety of roads. Cyclists could eyeball a safe route to cycle to work or simply to enjoy a safe leisure ride.

We discussed many methods but none were easy for a layman to use. In the end, tracing, xeroxing and colouring the maps by hand and subsequently scanning them seemed to be the fastest way to put them up on the web! Paul did as much and produced Cycle SG Maps ver 1.0 (note you can click for the larger, original images). I used iView Media Pro (now Microsoft Expression Engine) to create the album. These are useful maps to examine for the first timer or for the veteran to reflect on. Considerable thought and discussion went into it. But it was a stop-gap measure at the time which provided, amongst other things, a one-glance assessment of cycling friendliness of an area.

Cycle SG maps ver 1.0 [pbarter-26oct2004] - 3/8


"Cycling Routes to Live By" (2004)

I had long been interested in provising a detailed, graphical breakdown of some of my cycling routes. These defied a simple written description for they made use of the bike's urban versatility to include detours to wide, low pedestrian-traffic pavements, residential areas and an underpass or two. All of this was an effort to avoid the busiest or most dangerous roads.

Virtual Map's Singapore Street Directory was then available online. After a series of screen grabs with SnapNDrag and edits with Graphic Converter, I used Claris Home Page to put up a webpage that cyclists could use. The route? My time-tested Serangoon Gardens to NUS cycling route which I had used for about a decade then.

Serangoon Gardens - NUS


That webpage was meant to be the first of a planned series called "Cycling routes to live by". Before working on the maps further, I sought permission from Virtual Maps. I wanted to annotate the maps directly with Graphic Converter and include route highlights. Virtual Map had no objection to this non-profit exercise, but we were supposed to meet for me to finalise the matter. But they were busy and eventually because I was too, the project faded.

But this was a laborious method. Also, I was very familiar with this particular route and had introduced many friends to it. So I could detail it relatively easily and quickly. The other routes would take more work.



The promise of Google Earth (2005)

In 2005, Google Earth was released and increasingly available. By late 2005 I was using the beta for the Mac OS X which went official in January 2006. In May 2006, the mashup, Bikely.com was launched. By August, route editing and commenting was provided. But only satellite views were available for Singapore then. In December 2006, however, singeo was able to say "thank you Santa" - Singapore street maps had became available in Google Maps! Bikely was successful and in June 2007, bikely subscribers were informed that the baton had been passed to Future Publishing. All in less than a year.

There are now 197 Singapore cycling routes in Bikely. I added my Serangoon Gardens to NUS cycling route last night and it is now at www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Serangoon-Gardens-to-NUS-Kent-Ridge-Campus. The route is mirrored on bikeradar.com. It took me just five minutes to map that route. I'll add annotations next. It's all unbelievably simple and quick!

Bikely - Serangoon Gardens to NUS


Bikely has not yet provided everything we need, but it is likely that will come. We can happily plot our routes for the moment, knowing that the information we provide can be integrated with future tools.

So add your routes and annotate them well so that locals and visitors alike can make sense of it. Remember you can download the KMZ files into Google Earth, so have fun with that too.

Happy trails!

See routes submitted by Chu Wa and Paul Barter.

2 comments:

dclh said...

Yes, Paul's comment led me to Bikely.com, which is impressive! In just minutes, I added the route of my first trip from Clementi to Tanjong Pagar.

Your route from to NUS really try best to avoid all major roads :) which I guess one cannot know from maps but have to explore on site to find out if the road is passable. E.g. I didn't notice that Kheam Hock Road passes underneath PIE.

However, to me, not all small roads are safer, and especially for those quiet ones.

iamspidermonkey said...

oh yeah! am a big fan of bikely.com Its such a great resource to look for ways to get around!