Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Updated Bike Program website includes interactive bike map

The Fairfax County Bike Program recently updated their Bike Pages website. It now includes an interactive bike map containing gis layers from the printed route map along with several other map layers. The route map has been available for several years. FABB helped to create the map by advocating for funding and reaching out to local cyclists to find bicycle-friendly routes.

Users can choose from several background maps including streets, streets with topography, elevation, imagery, and a background image provided by National Geographic. One of the most interested background maps is from OpenStreetMap, a public domain source created by the user community. It contains very detailed trail information in some areas.

The map layers are derived from the paper Bicycle Route Map but they also include more detailed trails shown in the Fairfax Trail Buddy layer. A sidewalk layer only appears at very large scales. An interesting feature is the ability to click on a map feature and find out more information. Clicking on a road symbol brings up the meaning of the symbol (usually Preferred or Less Preferred), who maintains the facility (almost always VDOT), the speed limit, and the bicycle level of service category (A-F).

When the trail layer is queried, the width and surface are displayed along with who maintains the trail. We often find trails in poor condition and determining who is responsible for maintenance is difficult. Now there is a source to find out who to call. While the data are not complete, it's a great resource.

We've played with the map for a while and we're impressed. Display speeds are good, there's a wide variety of backgrounds to choose from, and the information about the data is readily available. It would be nice to have more information about the map sources such the Trail Buddy layer and the scale-dependant sidewalk layer. It would also be nice if one could query the sidewalk layer. Overall it's an excellent start. Kudos to Fairfax DOT and the bicycle program staff!

Another enhancement to the Bike Pages site is a new section on funded Bike Projects. Project Name, Scope of the project, Funding Source, and Status are listed. We'd like to see more detailed information, but having this list is an excellent resource. I can see it growing to include unfunded but high priority projects based on the draft Bicycle Master Plan.

Below are two screen shots from the interactive map showing the Streets background and the OpenStreetMap background. For comparison, a Google Map screen shot is displayed showing the bicycle layer. More detail is available when zoomed in on the interactive maps.

Street Layer with Trails
Open Street Map with Trails
Google Maps with bicycle layer

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Excellent new resource. But I'm curious as to why Gallows Rd between Cottage and Tysons is marked as "less preferred" when it has bike lanes. I assume it has to do with the nature of the road itself (4 lanes, 35 mph speed limit), or is the data not up to date?
The data used for this application doesn't match the latest version of the map, which shows Gallows as a preferred route now that bike lanes are in place.
First of all, congratulations to Fairfax County for making this information easily accessible. Brian's comment brings up a couple of thoughts. It would be nice to have a way to send feedback about the map from the application. That way errors could be pointed out or suggestions made. It would be nice to be able to include a screen shot of the area you were commenting about as well. I like that the information on trails includes the department responsible for maintenance. It would be really nice if the information also included general contact information for the responsible agency.

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