U professor’s bike app gets revisions

U professor’s bike app gets revisions

Benjamin Farniok

University of Minnesota computer science professor Loren Terveen helped launch a program in 2008 that created a new way for bicyclists to find their way around.
 
Since then, Terveen said the online bicycle mapping system — called Cyclopath — has abandoned its phone application and fallen behind newer, user-friendly technologies. 
 
But over the last year, the program, deeveloped by a research lab in the computer science and engineering department, has expanded its map over greater Minnesota. The system has also created a more user-friendly look and fixed kinks in how it gives directions. The updates, outlined in a report released last month, could make the site more useful for the state’s bicyclists and planners.
 
One of the largest goals in improving the format of the data — other than helping bicyclists get around — was to inform urban planning across the state, said Jasna Hadzic, a Minnesota Department of Transportation senior transportation planner who worked on the project.
 
The additional street and trail data can be used by state officials to make more informed decisions when establishing roads and creating bike paths, Hadzic said.
 
“The planners, whether it’s here at the state, or the city, or county, or the Metropolitan Council, could use that data to determine where the need is the greatest or how to prioritize some of the investments,” Hadzic said.
 
Minneapolis, however, didn’t use the system when creating its bike plan, city bicycle planner Simon Blenski said.
 
Though the updates aim to make Cyclopath’s user interface cleaner and easy to use, the program still occasionally fails to identify street intersections, creating a picture that simulates one street passing under another, he said.
 
This issue stems from data gathered and delivered by various organizations, Terveen said. Because each group, like MnDOT, the Metropolitan Council and the University’s College of Design, collect road and trail data differently, researchers ran into trouble when combining the information.
 
“You look at this the map and think, ‘Oh, this trail crosses this road,’ and the system might not know that,” he said. “It can lead to people getting a suboptimal route.”
the problem can cause the site’s routes to lengthen by as much as 10 blocks, according to the report.
 
The companion Cyclopath app was only designed for Android users and has not been updated since its introduction in 2011, Terveen said. The app no longer functions properly with the website, and Terveen said he plans to remove the feature completely.
 
Rob DeHoff, owner of Varsity Bike & Transit in Dinkytown, said although he has heard of the program, he has never used it, preferring physical maps or cell phone applications to a website.
 
By allowing users to edit incorrect routes, the map is continually updated and corrected, said Greg Lindsey, a Humphrey School of Public Affairs professor and transportation expert.
 
Lindsey said he has used Cyclopath on a few occasions but has since gone back to using Google Maps for directions because he said it’s easier to use and access.
 
Nonetheless, Lindsey said he likes Cyclopath’s feature allowing a user to choose different priorities for a route, including biking along most traveled roads, highest-rated paths and shortest routes.