Wiki Wednesday: Community Mapping

sanjose.jpgBike trails in San Jose, CA, on OpenStreetMap

As
a kid I used to periodically raid my grandparents’ stash of National
Geographics. Not for photos of women in scant native dress, but for the
way cool maps, with which I would wallpaper my room.

Ironically,
the maps did eventually give way to Paulina Porizkova posters, and the
years have also seen them outmoded — in function, if not aesthetically
— by amazing advances in cartography. (If you haven’t seen it, this New Yorker piece from 2006 is an excellent primer.)

The latest and greatest innovations have brought about a renaissance in community mapping, the subject of this week’s StreetsWiki entry.

Community
Mapping is the creation of a map via a community-driven process,
usually done to map non-traditional features, such as safe biking or
walking routes, local trees and parks, and other aspects of community
life. Community mapping has existed for hundreds of years, but recent
advances in technology, such as GPS’s and online mapping portals like
Google Maps, have allowed the creation of better and more detailed
maps, and have expanded their reach beyond small groups.

OpenStreetMap,
for instance, functions like a Wikipedia for maps. Unlike proprietary
services like Google Maps, OpenStreetMap operates under a Creative
Commons license, and allows users to add and edit information
collaboratively. Google Maps is of course also widely used for
community mapping, Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat and the burgeoning Boston bike network being two examples.

Other projects employ more conventional means — the still-viable, highly-mobile print product — from Bay Area watershed mapping to New York’s official cycling map (now available in PDF form).

  • I think one of the best approaches we take to make biking directions happen in more places on the web is to make Open Street Map a more complete resource for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure

    You can download Open Street Map data to a Garmin GPS unit, and use Maplint to highlight some areas that need help. Then, you can use a handheld GPS to capture data for streets whose data is poor and uploads it back to OSM.

    And then, bike network data is available to be used a multi-modal trip planner like the open source Graphserver.

    A lot of folks are interested in multi-modal trip planners. It’s one of the most common requests the folks at TriMet in Portland, OR, receive, for example. The best outcome for the long-term, I think, is for bike route information to be available a variety of different ways.

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