Bike Network 2.0

One of the more intriguing stories at yesterday’s National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. came from Nicole Freedman, who was appointed Boston’s first bike czar last September. A planner and one-time professional cyclist, Freedman was charged with building a bike network out of nothing, in a city routinely ranked among the nation’s worst for bicycling, on a shoestring budget.

nicole_freedman.jpgWell, you know what they say about necessity. Freedman invented a rather ingenious method of planning a bike network. Her team created a modified Google Map that enables cyclists to log on and trace the routes they ride every day. Watch the data pile up, and voila — sensible bike routes. "We found out where the actual desire lines are," she said. "Using existing technology was great."

In addition to figuring out where to stripe lanes, Freedman is using Google Maps to rate streets on bike-friendliness. "Anyone can go onto Google and rate a road," she said. "Is it good for beginners or just for experts?" The results will be reflected in Boston’s first official bike map, which Freedman touted as an example of the city’s strategy to personalize bike education and training. (Did I mention they’re starting from scratch?)

Total cost? Next to nothing. "Basically the public is creating the map, and the sponsor will print," she said.

Update: While trying to track down the Google Map, which reader Eric Fischer links to in the comments, I found this explanation of how riders use it from Boston blogger Velo Fellow

Photo: Active Living Network

  • franklin

    how about a link to the google map?

  • Eric Fischer
  • Bike Czar…sponsored by FORD? Funny how advertising is everywhere….

  • Ace

    they’ll stone you when you’re riding on your bike

  • anon

    Why must all these people wear spandex for their photos? Don’t humans bike too?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I sometimes feel that way, Anon, but you missed the part where Freedman was a professional racer:

  • pfs

    Lookup locations with nearby wiki’s worldwide on satellitepictures easy by address?
    A combination of Googlemaps mashup, Wikipedia information and thirdparty addressdata with address suggestion.

    Also take a look at trafficjamlocations in the Netherlands with thier average length in graphics?

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I’m sorry but I gotta’ agree with #5. I think many cyclists including those in bicycle planning, get too bogged down by their gear-head perspectives that they become irrelevant to the cycling “curious but hesitant” masses.

    Just look at the US bike industry. Besides Joe Breeze, no other US bike company is building a bike that potentially appeals to the masses. Besides the enthusiast bikes they produce, the “comfort” and other bikes they produce are mostly impractical toys.

    There is hope however! I just today saw that Gary Fischer is introducing a line of very practical, traditional, European influenced town bikes, complete with factory fenders and chainguards!

  • Absolutely agree about the spandex, I doubt many non-cyclists could relate to her and her ads.

    Bikes…if you check on any European website, there are many, many “normal looking” cycles. Most have internal hub gears instead of finicky dérailleurs, have mudguards, lights and bell. Incidentally, my bike from 10 years ago is a Gary Fisher, with 7spd Shimano hub gears, a model they produced for one year and discontinued.

    But then, cyclists in Europe treat it as a normative activity. We need to have more of that here.

  • bikerguy

    Here a note from an engineer and a biker. Just because you have the routes taken by people, you don’t have the “optimal” routes. You have the optimal routes given the current conditions. I hope that there will also be some global thinking about what would be best for bikers. Identifying feeder routes and trunk lines are classic traffic engineering, and these concepts likely work for bikers as well. Also, please think about the snow and ice issue. Here in Madison, WI we have had a long hard winter. My routes have changed because my favorite back streets are still coated with ice.

  • David

    Before anyone else goes off and criticizes the spandex photo, do we actually know who supplied it and who chose it? That is to say, is this a photo she supplied for a bicycle planning-related purpose (unlikely I think) or is this (more likely) a stock photo of her from her racing days that someone else chose to make use of? If the latter it seems a bit much to criticize Ms. Freedman as #5, #8 and #9 did.

  • Martin von Wyss

    Ms. Freedman can’t be Boston’s first Bike Czar because Paul Schimek, planner in the city’s transportation department, held that title in about 2003 or 2004.

  • In many circles of Boston Bike Kremlinologists, Paul’s legitimacy has been challenged, similar to the False Dmitry, so according to them he does not count as a Czar.

  • because she wears spandex does not discount her as a spandex cyclist

    should she of had a costume designer dress her as an urban hipster
    all the way down to fake tattoos and fake piercings

    now that I think about it…
    why is she wearing spandex
    is she a former racer?
    is she a racer?
    does she normally ride/train in that gear?
    or is it corporate sponsorship?

    I do not know

    but I do know that the technology sounded cool

  • BBooper

    Give me a break people! Don’t you know that Nicole Freedman is an outstnading coach, is a professional cyclist, 2 -time U. S. National Champion, member of the U.S. Olympic Road Team and the founder of the Ford-Basis Women’s Cycling Team??? Geeze.

  • Thomas

    Sad, Sad. Can we just stay on discussing biking, on not whether someone is or not is a spandex (or other type) of bicyclist. Really not important. More important:
    Where is the forum where you would add routes to the network. Also, does someone know how best to cycle from Boston Downton to Cambridge, area Union Sq? It seems pretty tough to get across the river. Any ideas?

  • If I understand it, it is a tedious manual process to log the best routes to Google Map and might be better achieved using the Verizon GPS “Bones in Motion” (BIM) application (or something similar) which I believe automatically logs the route on a map for future reference and upload to a database application like New York City’s “Bike the City”.


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