Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In

Wiki Wednesday: Community Mapping

sanjose.jpgBike trails in San Jose, CA, on OpenStreetMap

As a kid I used to periodically raid my grandparents' stash of National Geographics. Not for photos of women in scant native dress, but for the way cool maps, with which I would wallpaper my room.

Ironically, the maps did eventually give way to Paulina Porizkova posters, and the years have also seen them outmoded -- in function, if not aesthetically -- by amazing advances in cartography. (If you haven't seen it, this New Yorker piece from 2006 is an excellent primer.)

The latest and greatest innovations have brought about a renaissance in community mapping, the subject of this week's StreetsWiki entry.

Community Mapping is the creation of a map via a community-driven process, usually done to map non-traditional features, such as safe biking or walking routes, local trees and parks, and other aspects of community life. Community mapping has existed for hundreds of years, but recent advances in technology, such as GPS's and online mapping portals like Google Maps, have allowed the creation of better and more detailed maps, and have expanded their reach beyond small groups.

OpenStreetMap, for instance, functions like a Wikipedia for maps. Unlike proprietary services like Google Maps, OpenStreetMap operates under a Creative Commons license, and allows users to add and edit information collaboratively. Google Maps is of course also widely used for community mapping, Transportation Alternatives' CrashStat and the burgeoning Boston bike network being two examples.

Other projects employ more conventional means -- the still-viable, highly-mobile print product -- from Bay Area watershed mapping to New York's official cycling map (now available in PDF form).

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Tuesday’s Headlines: Valley of Political Death Edition

Did you see the new poll showing congestion pricing is really unpopular? Ignore it! Good times are coming. Plus other news in today's headlines.

April 23, 2024

Open Streets Groups Warn of Extra Red Tape to Run Events

Two weeks notice for hopscotch or a yoga class?

April 23, 2024

Monday’s Headlines: A Federal Case over Parking Edition

We're flicking our bicycle bell over a big scoop last week that no one picked up on...yet. Plus other news.

April 22, 2024

Hochul, Legislators Reach Toll Evasion Crackdown Deal

Higher fines for covering a plate and for not paying tolls are part of the budget deal inked on Saturday.

April 22, 2024

Behind the Scenes: How Gov. Hochul Got ‘Sammy’s Law’ Over the Finish Line

Opponents didn't want to put their name on a no vote for the life-saving measure.

April 22, 2024
See all posts