Geowiki designed at U brings path-finder technology to bikers

MapQuest and Google Maps have long had comprehensive maps and turn-by-turn direction finders for vehicle users, but what about bicyclists?, a âÄúgeowikiâÄù started by University of Minnesota computer science graduate student, Reid Priedhorsky, has got it covered. The website features a comprehensive map of roads and bike paths throughout the seven-county metro area and allows users to edit the content of the map. âÄúGeowikiâÄù is short for geographic wiki, which is a map that anyone can edit, and Cyclopath is the first of its kind. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia , allows user-based contributions to shape the website. But this principle had yet to be extended to maps, until now. Cyclopath allows users to put in a start and end destination to find a bike path. Users can fill in gaps in the map by adding a missing sidewalk or putting in path closures. They can also rate trail conditions, mark locations of interest and find paths based on âÄúbikeability.âÄù âÄúThe changes that people put in are live immediately,âÄù Priedhorsky said. âÄúHopefully they will add useful information and not dirty knock, knock jokes,âÄù he said, adding that no one has vandalized the site yet. The original map data came from the Minnesota Department of Transportation , he said, and included two data sets: the streets and the bike paths. Priedhorsky said he hopes the Cyclopath community will contribute to the siteâÄôs mapped transportation network by filling in the gaps. âÄúThe information that cyclists need to navigate is really complicated,âÄù Priedhorsky said. âÄúIt changes a lot by season and depending on construction.âÄù For this reason, the information bicyclists need canâÄôt be found through Google Maps or on paper maps. It was Doug ShidellâÄôs âÄúTwin Cities Bike Map,âÄù a book detailing bike paths in the city, which first gave Priedhorsky the idea for Cyclopath. ShidellâÄôs book started a conversation on the future of bike mapping. Then the idea of the geowiki was born. Cyclopath entered its beta phase on Aug. 30 of this year, which means that itâÄôs open to the public but is still under development. Priedhorsky is also using this information for research. One of his interests is in online communities. Loren Terveen, associate professor in the computer science and engineering department, worked with Priedhorsky to get the project off the ground. Terveen said Cyclopath creates several technical research challenges, including figuring out how to monitor geographic editing in a wiki and what tools are needed to edit a geographic entry. âÄúThe tools you need to edit a map are more complicated than those for a text wiki,âÄù he said. Lee Penn, an associate professor of chemistry at the University, said she has been using Cyclopath since its alpha phase. âÄúThere are tons of recourses for people who use cars exclusively for transportation,âÄù she said. âÄúBut bicycles are not cars. We navigate the city differently than cars do.âÄù Penn uses the site for her own personal biking needs, but said she has also printed off maps from Cyclopath for her freshman seminar, âÄúMy Other Car is a Bicycle.âÄù Aside from the benefits to peopleâÄôs health and the environment, Priedhorsky said the one of the reasons for Cyclopath is to promote bicycling. âÄúSome people would bicycle if they just knew how to get somewhere,âÄù he said. âÄúCyclopath helps them figure out that it can be done and how.âÄù