Thursday, March 11, 2010

More bike map resources

Yesterday I blogged about the new bicycle layer and routing feature in Google maps, which is excellent and very welcome. It's not the only option though, so I thought I would share a couple more options for finding bicycle routes.

The first is http://opencyclemap.org which is a fantastic resource for cyclists. Here is an example showing the coyote creek trail (part of the same trail I showed on Google maps yesterday):


Pretty isn't it - yes, and useful too. For those who don't know, opencyclemap.org and the site it is based on (openstreetmap.org) are the source of some amazing map data, more detailed than anything else I have seen in the US, and the data has some advantages over that available from Google maps right now, namely:

  • Available in other countries - someone responded to my blog post yesterday that they didn't have data in the EU yet, but openstreetmap (and consequently opencyclemap) data is pretty complete in many countries.
  • It has height contour data, very useful for planning your ride to see what kind of workout you are in for.
  • It is user-supported. OpenStreetMap and OpenCycleMap data is a bit like geospatial wiki data. If you know of a cycle (or other) path or road that is not on the map, you can add it. I have added a couple of paths I know of already, and it's pretty easy.
  • Off road (mountain bike) trails are on there as well, take a look at the following shot of part of Henry Coe park (near Morgan Hill) which has a lot of fire roads and single track:

Wonderfully detailed.

There are a few things Google maps does better though:
  • It's not always clear from opencyclemaps.org whether what you are looking at is a paved (road bike friendly) trail or a mountain bike track. If you want to do a road ride, the new cycle layer in Google maps is probably better. If you want to go mountain biking, OpenCycleMap has a lot more detail for that.
  • The OpenCycleMap servers are slower - naturally the Google maps server has a lot more performance and responsiveness.
  • At least on the OpenCycleMap site itself, there is no automatic routing option like there is on Google maps. You will have to figure out your own route from the data.
On the go, if you have an iPhone, I recommend checking out the OpenMaps application, which has both OpenStreetMap and OpenCycleMap data available. It is well worth the few bucks it costs on the app store. It has some really useful features on it like:
  • Download the street or cycle map data for offline usage (if you are going out into the wilds, this is probably a good idea). You can choose the detail and size of data to download when you ask for the tiles.
  • It has routing! You have to set a start and end pin, and maybe some route pins, but it will then find a nice route using bike paths and tracks - very useful in the wilderness.
  • You can carry it on your bike - on the handlebars even if you get the right kind of adapter.

If/when I move to Android, this is one of the must-have apps I am going to need to find an alternative for.

2 comments:

Brendan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brendan said...

OpenCycleMap certainly does look like a good resource.

I am working on a google maps based resource where users can rate roads for cycling friendliness. I think it might make a good compliment to this service.

Cyclists' Road Map