CityCyclingEdinburgh Forum » Questions/Support/Help

Accurate map of local cycle infrastructure

(34 posts)
  • Started 7 years ago by i
  • Latest reply from boothym
  • This topic is not resolved

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  1. i

    Darkerside and others have been talking about building a bike infrastructure map. The trouble with existing bike overlays from OpenStreetMaps or Google maps is there is not a very good distinction between types of cycle routes and the quality of each route. For example comparing Milton Keynes with Assen would be misleading, although you can see that dutch towns are far better interconnected.

    So the idea is to use local knowledge and collaboration to chart out what is actually exists onto a custom layer over a conventional map. I know that spokes have done a lot to map various routes. Has anyone here done something like this or has experience editing Open Street Maps?

    Posted 7 years ago #
  2. twq

    I'd get behind this idea. It would be nice to have an updated map with rankings for road surfaces, bike lanes and traffic. The amount of times I've been led down badly cobbled streets by google!

    Posted 7 years ago #
  3. chdot

    OSM is as good as the data inputted.

    Anyone can improve this - just need to register (free).

    Inevitably different people have different ideas of 'busyness' (for instance) - either just from personal 'comfort' or only experiencing a road at non/busy times.

    I expect all Edinburgh roads with setts have been identified in OSM, but I don't think there is a way to tag 'OK setts' and 'really rough setts'.

    CycleStreets uses all this info to offer different routes.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  4. smsm1

    The OSM tagging can get into really nerdy ojective detail, such as the widths of the cycle path or the type of surface. It's best to avoid subjective detail in OSM, though some people do fuzzy match to OSM data.

    It's best to describe what is currently there. That way you can decide as a cartographer or routing engine whether a 2m wide cycle lane is good or bad. As these kinds of details are added, CycleStreets are happy to add these details into their system.

    Next week (Tues 10th December 2013) is the quarterly Edinburgh OpenStreetMap meetup where many people including myself will be available to discuss things. You may well different options for the same problem, though that's normal for OSM as there are many ways to do the same thing.

    Here is a map highlighting the current OSM data that has surface information:

    ITO have other maps of other relevant details:
    * Highways:
    * Cycling maps:

    (Disclaimer: I'm a long time OSM Mapper, and work for ITO World).

    Posted 7 years ago #
  5. chdot

    "Disclaimer: ..."

    CCE for expert advice!

    Posted 7 years ago #
  6. Focus

    I find the type of surface is particularly important to be aware of. That's where the NCN falls short for me. It's all very well signposting a route but if you are on a road bike you want to know if the route you are being encouraged to take is actually road bike-worthy!

    Tarmac/cinder path/mud/rocks - I want to know these things. Even within the city limits you'll find all of those (and combinations thereof), especially on non-NCN routes.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  7. Darkerside

    Impressive cross-forum thread pollination...

    The justification for creating this was less about creating a map for route guidance (although that would be a happy side-effect), but more to provide a baseline for what infrastructure we have.

    The council regularly trots out the 301km of cycle lanes statistic, which I suspect is cobblers. However, until we accurately map exactly what we have it's hard to refute.

    Trying to capture all the detail within OSM is likely to be counterproductive. OSM doesn't care if the lane matches Cycling by Design standards, or whatever.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  8. rbrtwtmn

    Can I add my voice to encourage people to use OSM for lots of what's being talked about in this discussion (and the discussion on CityCyclingGlasgow). I'll mention the limitations of OSM in a moment, but first I think it's worth throwing some clarifications and positive notes about it in...

    (disclaimer - I may be talking to people who know this already - sorry if I am - but lots of people don't so it seems worth a few words)

    It's not helpful to think of OSM as having 'overlays'. What's great about OSM is that it's a database of information not a single map. There are hundreds of maps and apps using this database, and it's not too complex to create maps that do what you want for a given purpose. There are some maps which do use an overlay (like the Waymarked Trails site). Buy maps like the commonly used OpenCycleMap rendering are a complete re-design of the map using the same data. You might not notice this looking very different, but try something like the OpenCycleMaps Outdoors rendering style for a different look.

    Why this matters is because it makes the whole thing MUCH more powerful for collecting and using the kind of data everyone is talking about. If we wanted a very different map, which only showed cycle routes and area names,like the tube-style diagram of Edinburgh's off road network for example, we can do this from the data.

    There are holes in the data - stuff like path surface tends to be mapped much later than the actual route of a path, but I'd strongly encourage people to add this data to OSM rather than to try to create overlays of information elsewhere. And if there isn't an OSM rendering available which shows what you/we want, work on creating one... lots of people will thank you for it.

    By the way, if there are objective things which aren't yet being mapped at all, the beauty of OSM is that you can still use it to map these. The 'tagging schemes' for the data aren't limited to what's already being tagged. If there's a need to record something new then it's possible to work with others to find a sensible way to begin mapping this.

    To illustrate OSM as a database, take a look at something like Overpass Turbo which with a little bit of learning about OSM will allow you to extract data to use yourself.

    And then I'd also say that if anyone does think about working with data as an overlay to a map, use OSM for the background too. It might take a little learning to do this, but you'll quickly end up with something more flexible than anything based on a copyright map.

    Finally a couple of words about what I do think are the actual (and important) limitations of OSM when we're talking about cycling infrastructure. Where it does start to fall down badly is if you want to get into street-level details. Take a look at this rendering of the Haymarket junction for example. OSM works by mapping the routes of roads and other features, rather than by mapping the boundaries of these roads. That works really well for lots of what we need a map for, but it can't easily cope with the kinds of detail which make it so apparent that Haymarket is a disaster for people on bikes. You'll see that while the direction of the roads and tram lines at Haymarket (on this rendering) are correct, the rendering of the road has a single steady width, when in reality at a location like this the actual road area and lane layout is very relevant to us. As far as I know the mapping of road areas is still discouraged - although you'll find that areas are mapped for some other features like rivers, or pedestrian areas.

    Sorry - that turned into a rather long post. Hope it's useful to those not familiar with OSM rather than just filling otherwise useful space...

    Posted 7 years ago #
  9. chdot

    "Sorry - that turned into a rather long post"

    Useful one though!

    I did some of the early OSM mapping for Edinburgh, but have hardly done anything recently so have forgotten half what I used to know - and never knew half as much as smsm1 (above) did then!

    There is plenty of scope for people to fill in any number of details - 'precise' surface detail would be useful, but anything other than tarmac varies with rainfall and seasons!

    I would certainly encourage people to sign up, see what is 'missing' in areas they know about and practice adding/changing. Nothing gets changed on the database (useful reminder of how it works from rbtrtwtmn) until you press "save" - even then it can be undone.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  10. cb

    Thanks for the overview rbrtwtmn, useful and interesting.

    Definitely agree with you on the roads as vectors vs areas confusion.

    That Haymarket map illustrates another aspect which I find can get quite confusing - when does a path running nearby a road become the sidewalk; i.e. when should it be separately mapped or not?

    I notice someone has mapped a 'path' along the front of Ryries leading to the station and tram stop. To me that seems a bit confusing, but perhaps it was put in when the main road was marked as closed during construction in order to keep a mapped walking through route?

    I'm sure all this is documented/discussed somewhere in great detail...

    Posted 7 years ago #
  11. rbrtwtmn

    Lots of documentation, but in the end it's really lots of people doing what seems sensible with the given tools.Worth saying that conventions tend to emerge, rather than rules being written. So is it OK to map a path separately to a sidewalk/pavement.... well sometimes.... I think that what makes sense tends to become obvious with mapping practice and by far the best way to start is just to start... When people work with care and humility (show respect to the work of others, but change it if sure that to do so makes sense, tell people what you're doing and say sorry if you think you've made a mistake) and it's difficult to go too far wrong.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  12. i

    @rbrtwtmn Useful insight to OSM, thanks!

    So we can input information on the type of infrastructure and extra details that determine the quality of the route. Then we make a rendering that pulls out what we need. How is the rendering implemented in general? Do you need to host a site or just put a script into the OSM website?

    It looks like what we need to do is agree on a convention that describes the type of infrastructure and for each category some statistics that determine the quality of the route. Then it makes implementation more straightforwards, especially if this is going to be a convention used worldwide on OSM! This might need a bit of discussion online and in any upcoming meetings.

    Here's an example off the top of my head; segregated cycle path.
    Width of path: 2m
    Distance of separation: 1m
    Type of segregation: Kerb island
    One/Two way: 1
    Road Usage: 50 mph, 1000 cars per hour.
    Kerb: angled
    Surface Quality: Smooth
    Surface Type: Tarmac
    Surface Colour: Red
    Lighting: yes
    Drainage: bad

    I can see that if there is a lot of information in the database, we can choose later in the rendering whether a cycle route is acceptable and up to good dutch standards and give it the appropriate colour and markings.

    As for infrastructure categories, there is quite a lot of different types when you make different combinations of road, cycle paths and pavements.

    And also there is describing the type of road junction which is often neglected on maps but is very important to the cycling experience.
    Eg; ASLs, Bike traffic lights, Simultaneous Green.

    Another long post! I could give more ideas on quality indicators but I'll wait to see if people think this is the way to do it.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  13. rbrtwtmn

    I'm going to leave others (here or through OSM channels) to answer the technical questions about scripts, hosting, etc etc. If you have any talent/knowledge for that sort of thing you'll easily find good help from those in the know.

    My personal suggestions would be:
    1) try mapping something - anything you can find on the map which is missing or wrong - but start with something really simple like a missing path through a park, or some details about a shop. There's a learning curve, but it's one of those things that can be overcome quickly with a tiny bit of determination and enthusiasm.
    2) get to the OSM evening next Tuesday and ask for help - it tends to be a very informal group of folk chatting around a pub table or two, so if you can get the ear of someone who knows stuff you'll learn lots
    3) keep asking questions about what's possible and remember that the whole thing seemed impossible to most of us just a few years ago (but OSM is already my map of choice for most journeys in most places due to the excellent local information it tends to have).

    Rather than try to answer any of your other questions (which others will answer better than me), I'll leave you with links to the technical wiki pages which describe people's attempts to record many of the features you've listed. Some of these will be well used and established conventions, some probably barely beyond the ideas of one person. TAKE NOTE that the wiki which I'm directing you to may well add to any confusion rather than making things clearer to start with. I strongly suggest you don't start by trying to make sense of the wiki pages (I'm only sending you there to illustrate that lots of people are already thinking about this stuff). Do start instead with something simpler, and return to this confused network of pages once the general OSM system for recording simple stuff is clear. Remember that this wiki is a place where a community made up of lots of people write their ideas with little coordination.

    Links: width , surface , kerb , lighting , one way status , speed limit , segregation

    Hope that's useful. I'll write more if people keep asking. Would also like to hear more from Darkerside (or anyone else) about what might be some limits to what should be on OSM so that people can think about what might need to be built on top of OSM rather than being integrated into the data, and from smsm1 (and/or others) about the technical questions.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  14. Darkerside

    It's becoming increasingly apparent that my feeling that OSM isn't the right tool is based on my ignorance... In a hasty defence, my last post was rapidly scribbled before the fasten seatbelts sign lit!

    My gut feel was that flooding the OSM database with masses of detailed cycle route information would be unwanted. Possibly I'm subconsciously applying wikipedia's 'please don't dump everything you know onto our servers' rules. If the idea of OSM is capture as much mapping data as people are willing to provide, then it seems the ideal tool.

    I'll see if I can get to the social next week.

    (In the spirit of disclaimers, last year I added to OSM the corner names of Knockhill race circuit to assist the new ambulance crews :p)

    Posted 7 years ago #
  15. chdot

    "In the spirit of disclaimers, last year I added to OSM the corner names of Knockhill race circuit to assist the new ambulance crews"

    I think that is exactly the sort of story/info that sums up the spirit/usefulness of OSM which OSM might like to promote!

    Posted 7 years ago #
  16. friskiffla

    At the Spokes autumn meeting someone (hello if you are on here!) asked if there was anywhere where suggestions for improvements to infrastructure could be recorded. I think the reply was 'contact the Cycling team at the council' but my fear is that in this situation, good suggestions would be forgotten about. I'm wondering if it could be tied in with the mapping of existing infrastructure that's being discussed here.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  17. chdot

    "anywhere where suggestions for improvements to infrastructure could be recorded"

    Well there is this -

    Which WILL get better and used more.

    It's a spin-off from CycleStreets and needs a bit of work to make it more 'user friendly'.

    PLEASE try it.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  18. rbrtwtmn

    friskiffla: what chdot said. Cyclescape is under development and will need people to input stuff to make it useful, but I'm also excited about its potential. The folks behind it know what they are doing and are trying to create something pioneering.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  19. smsm1

    Generally OSM starts with getting the basic road infrastructure and then more details emerge over time. Just because there isn't nerdy detail in there just now doesn't mean that you can't put it in in the future.

    On Cyclescape a Suffolk County Councillor after an introduction to it thought it was a a wonderful tool and annoyed that she hadn't looked at it sooner. And is starting to go around promoting it after the meeting on Monday evening.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  20. Morningsider

    I know nothing about the technological wonders described above - but I do know about presenting complex information to decision makers (e.g. politicians). I think Darkerside's idea of being able to categorically refute the cobblers about the amount of "cycle infrastructure" provided is a really good one. However, a map probably isn't the best way to do this - although it may be a good way of collating the information and to have as back up, if anyone questions the data.

    It might be useful to categorise the current infrastructure using a traffic light system - green- good, amber-acceptable, red-unacceptable. Something eye catching, easy to understand and very quick to absorb. A nice message that any politician can understand - e.g. 6% green, 10% amber and 84% red.

    Under this you could briefly describe what falls within each category, e.g. green - ?km segregated cycle lanes, amber - ?km well designed on-road infrastructure, red - ?km poorly designed and located on-road infrastructure. It would be worth mentioning that the categorisation has been done by experienced Glasgow based cyclists - never hurts to play up a local connection.

    Finish by offering to provide more comprehensive data, this is where the map could be used, if required.

    When dealing with politicians, less is more.

    Just an idea - but I have seen this technique used to great effect.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  21. chdot

    "It might be useful to categorise the current infrastructure using a traffic light system - green- good, amber-acceptable, red-unacceptable."

    Sounds good.

    Sounds VG!

    "e.g. 6% green, 10% amber and 84% red"

    That Edinburgh??!

    Posted 7 years ago #
  22. smsm1

    The OSM data can be used for more than just presenting data on a map. You can also run analysis on it, for example the length of roads that meet certain requirements. By having it stored in the geographic format, it becomes easier to maintain and re-run the analysis with tweaks or improved data.

    You deduce the red, amber, and green based on certain definitive criteria that is based on objective data.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  23. chdot

    "You deduce the red, amber, and green based on certain definitive criteria that is based on objective data"

    You offering to help...

    Posted 7 years ago #
  24. chrisfl

    I already have some scripts that I can run to look at stuff in the OpenStreetMap database Edinburgh, at the moment I'm just looking at cycle path length. But if there is an interest it could easily be expanded to look at other infrastructure.

    I think the cycle mapping is quite good, but there is definitely information that probably isn't recoreded like lighting surface types, widths etc. So if decide what information we are going to look at then we might want to look and making sure that the city has been fully covered.

    Also worth a look is a new website from a long time OpenStreetMap contribuyer. It's map specifically does display surfaces; this is at

    I hope to be at the OpenStreetMap pub meet, so a good place to chat.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  25. kaputnik

    I find the type of surface is particularly important to be aware of. That's where the NCN falls short for me.

    Ha, yes! We followed part of the "Kingdom of Fife Milennium Cycle Route" on Saturday betwixt Rosyth and Dunfermline. Turns out it was a very muddy, rutted, unmetalled farm track with significant flooded sections. Was fun for a bit, but not what was expected. The only indication we were going the right way was the line on my phone (from Cyclestreets map pack) and the solitary faded KOF Cycle Route marker.

    Personally I'd like a map that told people not to go that way if they're not out for CX or MTB action.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  26. Darkerside

    @Morningsider - absolutely agreed, traffic lights and easily quoted percentages definitely grab attention and headlines. However, if we can pull this information from a central, live, OSM database then it would become really powerful. Especially as you could set different queries for RAG.

    Eg; by Cycling By Design standards, you're 15% green. If I flip the magical switch to (some kind of Dutch standard, which automatically updated width and a variety of other categories), we're only 2% green.

    However, the key argument to be won in Glasgow at the moment is about arterial routes. The entire strategy is based around them, and we really haven't got any (the council appears to count the high-speed busways as also being good for bikes, because everyone likes fast HGVs...). I'm therefore thinking of some kind of high level map using a dramatic colour scheme like solarized. Highlight the mandatory lanes, the segregated lanes and the advisory lanes (different colours). Make any lane that doesn't meet the standard appear dashed.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  27. Morningsider

    @Darkerside - 100% agree about having the map data, just highlighting that maps are generally a very poor way of communicating information to people who don't frequently use maps.

    If you are trying to highlight issues with the main arterial routes then would suggest using schematic diagram rather than a map, as maps re a bit fiddly. Remember, a politician is likely to be looking at something on paper and is highly unlikely to spend their time scrolling around maps online. If the end result doesn't look good printed on A4 then I would would consider it a waste of time.

    Posted 7 years ago #
  28. i

    I can see how having a map of the area can give a good visual impact. It really depends on how the rendering is done. With a detailed map database its easy to get a percentage of good/ok/bad paths and then one can create a map that communicates that statistic well. Maps are powerful when used well, thats the challenge.

    I won't be able to go to the OSM meeting, Geneva is a long distance from here!

    Posted 7 years ago #
  29. rbrtwtmn

    Seems worth a link again to smsm1's ITO map which shows where surface is currently recorded on OSM in Edinburgh. (grey shows where no surface information is recorded).

    Here is a map highlighting the current OSM data that has surface information:

    Look at this out of full-screen mode to see the key.

    Here's a super-short introduction to how surface type is mapped:

      OSM is made up of lines and simple shapes.
      The lines have data attached.
      Surface data for a line representing a path or similar would usually be recorded using the 'tag' surface, and a value chosen from this list - bearing in mind that you can see what values are actually used (rather than just someone's one-off idea) by consulting this.
      But don't ignore other related tags like tracktype.
      The line representing a path or road must be split into separate (but still joined) lines where data changes (one line has one set of data, so you need two joined lines if one part of a track is grade1 and another part is grade2).

    Please start mapping surface data! Lots of hands make light work and all that...

    Posted 7 years ago #
  30. smsm1

    You can also see the key in full screen by clicking the icon on the top left of the map. If there are any surface tag values that you think should be shown please drop an email to support at, and we can add it.

    Also a quick reminder about the OpenStreetMap meet up tonight. I'm heading there now:

    Posted 7 years ago #

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