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Cyclopath: Personalized Routing and Open Collaboration for Bicyclists

Loren Terveen, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota

November 10, 2011

At the November 10 Advanced Transportation Technologies seminar, Loren Terveen described the innovative aspects and new development directions of Cyclopath, an online routing and mapping system for bicyclists in the Twin Cities area. Terveen, an associate professor of computer science and engineering, led the team of University of Minnesota researchers that developed the system.

Cyclopath allows users to generate personalized bicycle routes within the seven-county Twin Cities metro area. For instance, users can look for routes that maximize ridability, minimize distance, avoid hills, or contain roads with bike lanes whenever possible. Other options include exporting the route to a GPS device or creating a URL to share the route with others.

The system was developed in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Council, and other local partners.

Cylopath is also the world’s first full-featured geographic wiki—all users can edit the system’s maps of roads and trails. Editing tools allow users to add a block or segment of trail to the map and connect it to the existing network. Other online cycling tools also include this feature, but a rich infrastructure that allows users to annotate the system’s maps sets Cyclopath apart, Terveen explained.

Cyclists can add notes about a route or trail feature that are visible to all users, enter tags or short keywords (e.g., hill, spiral, entering nice view, etc.) to identify trail characteristics, and create discussions that link to specific geographic objects. When users are browsing a map, they can see all of the discussions associated with a specific area, and the user-generated tags help the system create more accurate personalized routes.

Users can also input ratings based on ridability of a trail or segment, Terveen said. The system uses these ratings—which range from impassable to excellent—to generate new routes for other users.

Since the system’s launch, more than 2,000 people have used Cyclopath to generate more than 60,000 routes, with an average of 175 route requests per day. Users have entered a total of more than 12,000 map revisions and 70,000 ratings.

“Ultimately, Cyclopath serves a dual role. We absolutely believe that it is designed to be a great system for bicyclists. On the other hand, we have done and will continue to do research based on the system,” Terveen said. So far, the researchers have conducted studies that examined what motivates users to participate in the system and assessed the value of user-generated content.

Future work includes expanding the system to the entire state of Minnesota in a project funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. In addition, the research team is developing a multimodal routing system that combines transit and bicycle routes.

Also in the works is Cycloplan, a new version of the Cyclopath system with added functionalities for planners. Terveen hopes that this system will allow planners to better understand where there is a need for new facilities, get feedback from the cycling community, and analyze possible courses of action.