Saturday, March 6, 2010

Toronto Bicycling Route Mapping Wiki Project

Introducing "The Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki Project"

After some articles are 'put to bed' at FilterBlogs they get a Posthumous Longtail Aperitif; links to related articles published after my original post - towards a better user experience for you, the reader:

1) Posthumous Longtail Aperitif, Friday March 12, 2010: "Google Maps Added A Bike There Feature! 5 Ways It Could Change America" How adding safe, flat directions for cyclists could put us on a faster track towards car-free living. In Planet Green, by Jaymi Heimbuch San Francisco, CA, USA | Thu Mar 11, 2010.

2) Posthumous Longtail Aperitif, Sunday March 7, 2010: "News About the Toronto Bicycling Route Mapping Wiki Project” published in Michael Holloway's BicyclingToronto Blog.

A couple of days ago over at, I joined, and posted this:

Hi everyone,

I'm new here, I live in Toronto Canada. It's great that Open Street Map exists!

I've got a project in mind. Please let me know if this is happening already somewhere else...

Toronto is built to move cars around efficiently, but as more and more people switch to bicycles for various reasons, there is a need for efficient and safe bicycle route information.

I think the best way to create this resource is through a user generated bicycle route wiki. Users add their knowledge of good routes by sketching them on the map of the city.

I'm hoping this knowledge base will not only be used by cyclists but also by the City of Toronto Cycling Committee to help in planning and enlighten resource allocation debates.

Michael Holloway
Location: Leslieville, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Michael Holloway 8:16 pm on March 3, 2010
That day I reported my find to the folks at Biking Toronto Forums where we have been talking about the idea of a cycle route map - I posted this (click to enlarge):

Image of SET BUG group post

After a day of study at OpenStreetMap I realized I was in over my head - OpenStreetMap has a big learning curve. If I wanted to produce a database of cycle routes this spring I'd have to go in another direction. So, the next day I left this note in my thread in Biking Toronto's Blog "The Hub":

Yesterday I left a note here in the SET BUG group, about – a perfect medium, I said, to create a user generated bicycle route map for the GTA.

After a day of study at Open Street Map I found it to be too complex for my coding abilities.

The good news is, I went back to an application I’ve used before the Sport Distance Calculator and it has all the elements I was imagining for this project – except importability.

With the Sport Distance Calculator you can create route maps and add a paragraph that describes the route. The map is then saved with the creator’s own password (to secure it). Each map has it’s own URL.

Below are the URL’s for the four maps I made today. I posted them to Twitter with the #BikeTO list tag and a short description with some keywords – safe, efficient, fast, and commute – that describe what kind of route they are.

Some Ideas to take this further

Biking Toronto users can create maps of their favourite ‘commute’ or ‘safe’, ‘recreation’ or ‘touring’ routes (to name a few keywords I’ve thought might make the data base accessible) and then post the URL’s here or in a specific list in Twitter.

I think I can create a list of images with links in them to the Sport Distance Calculator’s server.

Or using link customizers we can label the URL’s by keyword to help users search in a list – posting them on a separate page in Biking Toronto will give you a search-able database through Google et al. a well.

Michael Holloway

Tags: bicycle, commute, fast, generated, recreation, routes, safe, touring, user, wiki

So, to plan 'B' - the idea of creating a list of images with links to the Sport Distance Calculator.

Below is an example of how a linked thumbnail would appear - towards a data base of bicycle routes for all- by all:

West End Toronto to St Clair and Yonge

Click on map to view an interactive version at

Tags: safe, efficient, commute, touring, recreation, bicycle, wiki, Biking, Toronto, route, map

Since I have created two more maps. My idea is to publish these maps separately under the tag 'Bike Route Wiki'. These maps will be crawled and listed by search engines and be available to all.

The next thing is to help others make their own maps:

Cyclists who want to make their own map:
I will monitor the Twitter list - when a new map comes in I will take a picture of it to use as thumbnail and publish it in FilterBlogs - with a link back to the original Sport Distance Calculator user generated map. The original map is secured with a pass word and only the creator can make changes to it.
(If you do change your map - re-post in the Twitter list - so I'll be aware of it - as changes may effect the search label it gets.)

Other users who are using the data base will find themselves at the large interactive map at, where if they want, they can make their own map and post the link in Twitter with the list tag. Hopefully this activity will result in a gathering of people who know map making and wiki construction better than I.

At some point I would like to help create a real wiki - a synthesis of Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap - where all these various applications are connected and where cyclists create, tag, title and post for everyone to use.

In the mean time, we're building a usable data base of bicycle route maps, and I'm happily reading, and dallying about various wikis and mapping applications, teaching myself as I go.
OpenStreetMap Toronto city bike lanes map.
City of Toronto Bike Plan.
Image of Toronto Bike Paths in OpenStreetMap - Link.


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