Last week I put together a quick experiment in crowdsourcing recommendations for bike lanes. The website allows you to draw a line for a suggested bike lane, and the results tab creates a heatmap of the cumulative recommendation from all users. In the week since it has gone live, there have been over 800 new suggestions for where to put a bike lane:
This grew out of a conversation on twitter. Eric Bunch with BikeWalkKC was encouraging people to submit ideas about which streets in Kansas City could benefit from the addition of a protected bike lane. Someone suggested that a crowdsourced map might be a good way for everyone to contribute their ideas. Thomas Morefield suggested to the group that I could do something like that based on a similar project I was working on. I hacked together the map and voilà, whereshouldthebikelanesgo.com was born:
— Eric Bunch (@EricWBunch) March 29, 2016
This experiment was inspired by the amazing Strava Global Heatmaps. Strava is a app used by cyclists and runners to track their workouts. The heatmap takes the results from all of their users’ activities and displays a map of where people bike and walk today. One difference between Strava’s heatmap and whereshouldthebikelanesgo.com is that Strava shows where cyclists who cycle for exercise, recreation, and sport currently go, whereas whereshouldthebikelanesgo.com shows which streets would benefit from bike lanes and become streets where everyday cyclists would be able to go in the future.
The shareabouts app developed by OpenPlans also provided inspiration. It collects information from the community and displays the results on a map. However, it only supports adding points, and I wanted people to be able to draw lines.
This project would also not be possible without the OpenStreetMap (openstreetmap.org) project.
OpenStreetMap is the wikipedia of maps; anyone can contribute to the map using their easy to use web editing tools. OpenStreetMap provides the data for many popular apps and websites, and it is what I used for the background maps for whereshouldthebikelanesgo.com. I encourage everyone to create an account and start adding to the map for their neighborhood! Kansas City is behind some other cities in terms of buildings, addresses, business names, etc. This project also uses open source software leaflet, turf, and basemaps from CartoDB.
I have been pleasantly surprised with the response to this experiment, and there are several next steps that for further development of this tool. It could be used for a variety of public engagement applications. For example, this would have been immensely helpful during the streetcar expansion plan. I would also like to make it a more robust bike route planning tool by adding data such as existing facilities, topography, traffic counts, etc. and allowing people to create accounts and design bicycle systems à la transit remix:
This could also be developed into a helpful routing tool for cyclists that takes into account comfort level of the cyclist by incorporating the Open Source Routing Machine project. If you have an idea for how this can be used or are interested in collaborating, please tweet at me @zachflanders or @twocentric.
Whereshouldthebikelanesgo.com is a project by TwoCentric, a technology company that creates apps, products, and services for improving cities.