Friday, January 29, 2010

New Metro DC bike routing application

Ride the City is a bike routing application that's been in use in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, and a few other cities:
Ride the City finds the shortest distance between two points, with a difference. First, Ride the City avoids roads that aren't meant for biking, like highways and busy arterial streets. Second, Ride the City tries to steer cyclists toward routes that maximize the use of bike lanes, bike paths, greenways, and other bike-friendly streets.
The application also shows the location of bike shops and places to rent bikes. We've been testing and providing feedback on the prototype Metro DC application for a while. The final Metro DC application is now live and available to everyone. While it provides surprisingly good directions most of the time, there are still several problems. There are many locations in Fairfax where cycling conditions are so poor that no matter what application is used, there is not a good bike route. In those cases cyclists may be routed onto major roads with high-speed traffic such as Route 50 where only the more experienced riders may want to venture.

To help the developers improve the program, select a route, then provide route feedback by selecting "route options" then "rate the route." We've found the best way to create a route is to pan to your starting location, drag the green bicycle icon to the start point, then pan to the destination and drag the red stop sign. Entering addresses in the "where from?" and "where to?" boxes doesn't always work. (See Update below)

To use the old fashioned way to get bike directions see the electronic version of the printed Fairfax County Bike Map (PDF) or the online version divided into smaller sections.

[Update 12/30/2010: Entering addresses in the "where from?" and "where to?" boxes seems to be working fine now. The comment above was based on experiences in an earlier version of the program. We should have done further testing before stating that it "doesn't always work."]

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One thing that would be nice is if they had something like mapquest where you could tell it to avoid certain segments of the road..

In my case, the thing wants to send me down Rt 123 through Vienna - yeah, there is a stretch where there isn't any real side street. Not as bad as US 50, I suppose, but still it isn't something for a novice.

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