NYCDOT Opens the Way for Killer Bike Apps

Bike_Map_South_Bronx.pngNYC’s bike map [PDF] is now available in a software developer-friendly format.

Finding the best bike route through New York City streets? There’s an app for that. And with new data published online by NYCDOT yesterday, there may soon be more digital tools that enhance the experience of biking here.

The new release from DOT is a GIS-formatted version of the city’s cycling map, available here. Software developers now have high quality data about the locations of bike lanes built and proposed, as well as bike shops and bike parking. Throw in the developer-friendly information now available from the MTA, which released more sets of data last week, and the multi-modal app possibilities are growing.

What features would you like to see in NYC cycling apps? Let us know in the comments.

  • DPeterson

    Most cyclists already know their immediate neighborhood and any long trips they take regularly. What’s really needed is good longer distance routes with relatively low traffic in the outer boroughs. How about a good east-west route from Manhattan to the northeast Bronx?

    Since many of us in New York ride fairly simple bikes without low hill-climbing gears it would be helpful to show elevation gain, slope angle (steepness) and distance of uphill route segments.

  • Real turn by turn directions and other standard GPS app features with a bike map. Basically, I want the interface from my Garmin GPS unit but with bike maps. Also, it would be nice if I could get a warning that I’m heading towards a high traffic street.

  • MW in NY

    I’d love to see the ability for user feedback or input to alert other riders of condition changes or trouble spots…so if you program in your usual route, you could get an alert if there is a problem with your usual route.

  • Good software needs to work around people and their idiosyncrasies.

    Most route-calculation software does its best to give you a safe route, but very often you may know better (or prefer otherwise) and can offer a variation that you’re more comfortable with. Ever get routed through Central Park after midnight? Or past a bridge approach at rush hour?

    A good app would show me the results of “directions from A to B” and let me offer a slight variation on the route:

    Let’s say I want to go from the Upper East Side to Washington Square, and the software calculates a route that takes me down 5th avenue in midtown. I might look at it and think, “No way, that’s crazy at rush hour!” But I can see on this map there’s a nice bike lane on Broadway and I think, “It looks a little out of the way, but I bet it’s safer and more enjoyable.” I should be able tap or click on that road segment and have the software readjust the route using that segment (while still otherwise optimizing for time/distance/etc.)

    I know Google maps does this via “add a destination”, but it assumes you want to go to a single point, not to add an entire segment. You’re thinking “bike lane for many blocks” not “point X somewhere on street 123”.

    It’s not an easy nut to crack, I suppose, but this is how I always use these kinds of maps, and I’m sure having these kinds of options will woo the less intrepid onto their bikes more often.

  • Avigail O

    I often will not leave my apartment on bike if I feel slightly tired, because I worry that after a day of riding around I will be too exhausted to want to bike home. Likewise, if I think I may get delayed and have to come back after dark. I would love a bike app that shows which subway stations are most accessible for bikes.

    I never transport my bike at rush hour, but it would be great to know that on a Saturday evening, the 86th St 1 stop is only 1 short flight of stairs down, and that I should then get off at 157th St (also only a short flight of stairs) and then bike up to 181st St (rather than trying to force my bike into an elevator at that sub-station).

    I think I would be much more amenable to biking for transportation (rather than for exercise) if I knew that I could more easily troubleshoot. The ability to bring my bike on the train with minimal inconvenience to myself and others would be a great asset, and I would be willing to pay for a bike app that provided this information.

    Thanks Streetsblog!

  • Sean — google maps lets you grab any portion of your route and “drag” it to wherever you want. I can’t think of a simpler or more intuitive interface than that. Do that twice at each end of your segment, and I think that’s what you’re looking for, no?

  • Ride the City ( has been in operation in NYC for two years and has got lots of user feedback to give bicyclists useful safe bike routes.

    Sometimes it’s nice to be on the busy streets that have bike lanes during rush hour because you get to fly by all the cars standing in traffic.

  • Vaidila – I’m not saying people want to avoid traffic; that was an anecdote. 🙂 I’m saying that software can only at best guess what someone wants… Truly powerful and useful software 1) provides you with information that you can use to make better decisions, and then 2) bends itself around your decisions quickly and easily.

    J. Mork — Yes, what you’re describing is a good workaround, and I do exactly that in exiting applications. After a decade designing software user interfaces, I can safely say that a piece of software’s approach to functionality is far more important than the actual resulting set of functions. User-centric design means thinking about what people need, and why, and offering tools to cater to those needs. A difference in this kind of approach creates a different user experience… (“I like this route” [new route planned], versus “I want to go here.” “And down the road there.” “No, stay on that road…” ) A user interface twice as efficient and clearly thoughtful will get folks liking it and using it. Then more people see how easy and effortless it is to get around the city by bike. 🙂 Which we all want. 🙂

  • I’d like a map like this for London; I don’t think I’ll have to wait long.
    And I read somewhere that Apple has a patent for a heart monitor addition to the iPhone so cyclists will be able to track the heart-stopping events our car driving brethren seem intent on providing us cyclists with!

  • Sean — I guess I still don’t understand how you’d improve on what Google has. You need two points to define a “segment” right?

  • ross

    these bike lanes really suck. where once there were parked cars creating a SAFE buffer for pedestrians from the sidewalk, now you step right into an unruly path. i’ve nearly had 10-20 fights with cyclers in the 3 months this new deal was forced onto my home road, first ave @ 4th st. i guess fighting is good for the city…more tickets, more violations, more $$$

    let reason ring, stupid city



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