NYC Bicyclists Get Their Own MapQuest

bike_route.gif
Ride the City displays streets with bike lanes in green.

The good old New York City Bike Map is about to face some stiff competition. On Sunday, three enterprising cyclists launched "Ride the City," a web site that finds the safest and most efficient routes for those on two wheels. Here’s how it works:

The concept is pretty simple. Just like MapQuest, Google, Microsoft, and other mapping programs, Ride the City finds the shortest distance between two points. But there are two major differences. First, RTC excludes roads that aren’t meant for biking, like the BQE and the Queens Midtown tunnel. Second, RTC tries to locate routes that maximize the use of bike lanes and greenways.

Once your route is determined, the mapping software provides directions and displays bike shops along the way. Though perfectly functional, Ride the City is still in the testing phase. Its creators are looking for feedback to help improve route selection, and plan to add functionality, like locating bike parking facilities, in the future. We’re no programming experts, but it seems like Ride the City could also help track the routes cyclists are riding, like Boston is doing with Google Maps.

  • Clarissa

    This is very cool (unlike the weather today)! Thanks to those intrepid programmers for making this happen.

  • MyrtleGuy

    Superb!

  • galvo

    this is great, hopefully they will incorporate some kind of crowdsourcing feature where users can add tidbits of info to a route such as bike friendly restaurants, water fountains, historic tidbits or danger areas.

  • Kudos to the developers. This is outstanding (at least for all of the various bike routes I’ve plugged in). I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realize I could be biking up Greenwich Street on my way to the TOPP office instead of going out of my way and crossing the West Side highway twice.

  • Clarence

    Yeah this is a great idea. For those of us uber experienced, it might not be used very much, but heck this is gonna get SO many more people riding SO much more if they have an idea of how they can get somewhere safely and easily.

    Great job! And I second galvo’s comment, heck what a great way for the inventors to possibly make a little more $$$

  • Stacy

    This is so cool!! I wish I had know about it from my return trip after the Tour De Queens. It plotted a much shorter route than I came up with using the NYC Bike Map.

  • Hey, let’s hear it for all that fabulous open source software. Open Layers, PostGIS, etc are making things like this possible.

  • john the bicyclist

    This is a little sad. Electronic dependency cannot replace good old fashioned knowhow of the potholes, the steel plates from construction, the parked cars, the aggressive drivers, the unshaded streets. Trial and error is best- get on your bike and explore. What if some novice tries it out, finds the predetermined route “oppressive” or “hazardous”, then feels that there are no safer options out there, then gives up trying to start riding seriously? We have become so addicted to electonics- turn on your computer before you ride, print out the map and forget it in the printer tray (and forget to turn off the computer) as you ride away. Waste of energy, paper and time. Carry along that foldable map that the city prints and TA distributes.

  • Some of us don’t live in New York, John. Last time I was there I only had one day of riding and I might have liked to know in advance that, for instance, Coney Island Ave is a deadly, festering traffic sewer and not a good way to Sheepshead Bay. The paper map I had didn’t even show Bedford Ave, which is a tree-lined, bike-laned route far better.

  • CJ

    I think it’s a cool but I’m not sure that they really capture the “safest” route.

    I tried to 66th & CPW to Katz’s Deli and the actual safest route would be to cross over to the Hudson bike path and then cut back over when you get downtown. I tried it again for Little Italy and it still used streets only. I guess I could see using it if I needed to get somewhere quickly but if I had a few extra minutes, I would still figure out my own route.

    Still it’s a very good application and while I respect what “bicyclist” said above…I don’t think there is anything wrong with using it as a starting point and then adjusting your route to deal with construction, traffic, etc.

  • Clarence

    John, there is nothing sad about this. You make it sound like we are all going to be robot riders. I am sure this is not the case.

    It is just another tool. Some people will use it exclusively. Just fine for them. Others will use it sometimes or to plot a place out they have never been. That’s great too. Others like me will use it sparingly or not at all, preferring to get lost or to chart my own course. Or maybe use it to discover another alternative route and use just part of it as a recommended route or – good heavens – maybe to change up a routine ride.

    And ALWAYS as you say carry the foldable map the city prints and distributes. As an aside, back in ’97 while volunteering for T.A. and handing out maps at the Bike NY finish line, I heard some old timers bickering about the city wasting money to print a bike map saying, “What do we need something like that for?”

  • Peter

    This is a great idea. So far I’ll reserve judgement on its implementation however.

    I just tested a route from the West Village to Forsyth Street in Chinatown that I ride regularly. Their “Safest Route’ involves riding a quarter mile on Canal Street, hardly what I would call a safe road. The suggested route also takes me 5 blocks north of my starting position, in the wrong direction, just to get on a west side bike path, when there actually a west side highway crossing only two blocks away.

    The safest way from the West Village to Chinatown in my opinion is to take Bleecker all the way to Mott Street. Turn right Mott and stay on the small streets to your destination.

    Makes me wonder about some of the other routings it would come up with.

  • I think this is a wonderful tool, obviously not a replacement for experience and human judgment (much less my own personal preferences and comfort level with traffic), but a great source of information for those new to riding in NYC. The model could be endlessly refined. You could assign a numerical “risk/comfort” rating to each block for each period of the day. But even without the monumental analysis and input job that would require, I’m sure the map will suggest to me helpful alternative routes for new trips or even old ones.

  • Stu

    John, spoken like a true old-school bicyclist: condescending, dismissive, and unwilling to tolerate change. Go back to your messengering, and leave the Internets to the next generation.

  • Bonzo

    A great idea.

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    “Though perfectly functional, Ride the City is still in the testing phase.” Somehow, the comments above made me feel that was worth repeating.

  • Paul

    Yeah it seems to work pretty well. I was happy to notice they’re using OpenLayers for the javascript stuff, which is part of TOPP’s OpenGeo stack.

  • Josh

    If I’m not mistaken, it isn’t properly handling the Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge, but it’s a very good start.

  • It’s a great start. I definitely noticed oddities myself; for example, riding from Inwood to SoHo, the “safest” route generated has the cyclist ride through city streets to connect to the Greenway at 155th St. when it’s safer, faster, and more scenic to connect to the Hudson River Greenway at Riverside Dr. (near Dyckman). The return route takes the cyclist over the Prince St. bike lane, which IMO is a disaster afternoons and weekends (pedestrians treat it like an extension of the sidewalk!). I reported all this in my feedback.

  • ben

    Interesting app, definitely some quirks.

    The site returns the same route for “safest” and “fastest” for my commute from Greenpoint to midtown.

    It happens to be (almost) the route I normally ride (which is the fastest), but it’s far from the safest. There’s hardly a bike lane along the whole thing, and Greenpoint Ave, Van Dam, and Queens Blvd are teeming with trucks and expressway-bound traffic all day long.

    It tacks on around .75 miles, but it’s much safer to ride up Franklin to the Pulaski bridge, and hit the QBB from that direction.

  • Kate

    Yay! How perfectly wonderful!

  • I learned that I can shave a mile off my commute by taking an easterly route (not terribly attractive, though; I’ll stick to the Hudson River Greenway unless I’m in a great hurry), and it suggests a connection from the Hudson River Greenway to my office that might be better than the approaches I tried so far. Great tool!

  • Clarence is right about it being all good when there are more sources of information that people can refer to as they go through life thinking for themselves, but he underestimates the sad prospect of “robot riders.”

    “Now that I have this gizmo, I’ll never have to look at a map and figure it out for myself again!” is already the majority attitude among car drivers.

    Any reasonably intelligent person who explores, learns, and can read a map can outthink the machine when they need to devise their own itineraries. That people heedlessly abdicate so much personal awareness is indeed sad. In most cases they are not even saving time.

    Its about as sad as all the people who have not read a book since TV came along.

  • I am completely thrilled about this new website. Keep it uppppp!!!

  • Refried Bens

    Amazing

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