Bike Network 2.0

One of the more intriguing stories at yesterday’s National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. came from Nicole Freedman, who was appointed Boston’s first bike czar last September. A planner and one-time professional cyclist, Freedman was charged with building a bike network out of nothing, in a city routinely ranked among the nation’s worst for bicycling, on a shoestring budget.

nicole_freedman.jpgWell, you know what they say about necessity. Freedman invented a rather ingenious method of planning a bike network. Her team created a modified Google Map that enables cyclists to log on and trace the routes they ride every day. Watch the data pile up, and voila — sensible bike routes. "We found out where the actual desire lines are," she said. "Using existing technology was great."

In addition to figuring out where to stripe lanes, Freedman is using Google Maps to rate streets on bike-friendliness. "Anyone can go onto Google and rate a road," she said. "Is it good for beginners or just for experts?" The results will be reflected in Boston’s first official bike map, which Freedman touted as an example of the city’s strategy to personalize bike education and training. (Did I mention they’re starting from scratch?)

Total cost? Next to nothing. "Basically the public is creating the map, and the sponsor will print," she said.

Photo: Active Living Network

Originally Filed by Ben Fried

  • I’m pretty iffy on this approach. This is a slicker version of what Alta planning is trying to do in LA. The thing is when you plot LA cyclists routes, you’re not looking at desire as Freedman suggests. You’re getting a map of coping mechanisms. So that’s what we’ll end up with? More sophisticated coping mechanisms.

    I think this approach has some potential, but it has potential for massive abuse as well. Cyclists will need to remain vigilent in holding their gov’t agents accountable.

  • alex – i think you make a good point about coping mechanisms. if it were the ONLY thing they are doing… then it’d be pretty shabby. as it stands, i think it’s a pretty tech-savvy way to get a lot of feedback.

    while some route choices in LA are based strictly out of necessity (coping), much of what I choose is based on flat out convenience and enjoyment.

    i think there are some genuinely nice routes out there (mapped/unmapped) – if i were merely “coping” – i wouldn’t be riding.

    in fact, i need a coping mechanism when i have to get in the car.


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