Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mapping routes for walking and biking

The World Changing website has an entry, Google Transit 2.0, on that service, which has made some upgrades. Some of the comments within the entry are interesting. One is reprinted from a Portland, Oregon site, which laments that mapping services like Mapquest presume that everyone is driving, and that there should be an option you can choose to get a walking or bicycling oriented map. Another comment is that the London Transport Journey Planner incorporates bike route mapping. (I mentioned this site a few weeks ago because of how it integrates other non-provided transportation modes such as bicycling into its website,)

From the Portland entry:

Frustrated with yet again trying to use Google Maps and Mapquest to figure out a bike route to someplace I’ve never been, I had a sudden realization–these folks are missing a HUGE business opportunity. One that you can help them recognize.

Think about it: why do online mapping services assume that you’re driving? Why don’t they let you tell them “I want a bike route” or “I want to use transit.”

First and foremost, because we’ve all been conditioned to accept the view that getting around means “in a car” and that all other modes are “alternative” (read: less than). This includes the geeks providing the mapping services.

Second, because bikers have just rolled over yet again, quietly submitting to mapping services that only help drivers, thus helping perpetuate driving and, thus, environmental destruction.
What should an online mapping service provide? Simple–just like today, it should let you select a starting and ending point. Ideally, it should also let you include intermediate waypoints too, because we all like to combine trips, right?

But the hands down winner is the service that, for each leg of your trip, lets you choose your mode of travel and insert restrictions on the kinds of roads. This way, bikers wouldn’t be presented with maps that tell them to use the highways, for example.

So the winning online mapping service would offer you choices of mode like this:
Walking: 1) Walking (shoulders ok) 2) Walking (on streets with sidewalks only) 3) Walking (avoid high speed traffic whenever possible)

Biking: 1) Bike paths whenever possible 2) Avoid high speed traffice whenever possible 3) Bike on bus routes OK

The point is that the mapping services have spent a gazillion dollars giving us a service that is really only aimed at helping us if we drive.

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