Bicyclists across Minnesota can now plan their rides using Cyclopath, an online bicycle map and trip planner developed at the University of Minnesota.
Originally launched in 2008 to serve the seven-county Twin Cities metro area, Cyclopath now includes the complete Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) road and state trail network. A simpler version of Cyclopath is also now available as an Android app.
The statewide expansion project was sponsored by MnDOT, which also provided the U of M team with access to data on state roads and trails.
“MnDOT frequently receives requests from the public for long-distance route planning,” says Jasna Hadzic, a bicycle and pedestrian planner at MnDOT. “Last year, we updated the print version of the Minnesota Bicycle Map, but we still needed a tool that was more up-to-date and user friendly. Expanding Cyclopath helped us meet that need.”
Cyclopath generates personalized bicycle routes for its users. For instance, cyclists can look for routes that minimize distance or that favor bike trails or lanes. It also features a “Bike + Bus” multimodal option that lets cyclists integrate Metro Transit bus routes into their trips. What makes the tool unique is that it allows users to edit the system’s maps of roads and trails. Cyclists can add and connect new trails to the map, enter tags to identify characteristics, participate in discussions, and rate roads and trails for “bikeability.”
In addition to the statewide expansion, the new version of Cyclopath features a variety of updates to the original online site.
“Cyclopath was retooled to handle the massive amounts of new data,” says Landon Bouma, Cyclopath’s lead software engineer at the U of M. “This included rewriting the route planner to be more efficient and to return even better bicycle routes.”
The new version also features a simpler, more user-friendly website design and an updated map display that emphasizes bicycle facilities. The goal was to make it easier for cyclists to identify bike-friendly roads and trails, Bouma says.
Although the new version includes more route information than ever before, the data for Greater Minnesota isn’t as complete as the data for the Twin Cities. The Cyclopath team is counting on the tool’s users to help fill the gap.
“We encourage all cyclists to help us bring the rest of the state up to date by adding trails where they’re missing and editing roads to indicate bike lanes and other bike facilities,” Bouma says.
MnDOT, too, hopes that cyclists will add to and edit the state’s cycling network.
“A long-term goal is to use Cyclopath as a way to import data into MnDOT’s database system and as a way to maintain and update the state’s bicycle inventory,” Hadzic says. “We also hope that this tool can help prioritize future road maintenance and project investment, so encouraging cyclists to not only use the tool, but also to edit it, is very important.”
Going forward, the Cyclopath team is also interested in further expanding the tool’s availability.
“Cyclopath is a great tool, but it’s only available for cyclists in Minnesota, and it’s not available across all platforms,” Bouma says. “We would love to continue developing the software by optimizing the code, creating apps for all devices, and expanding the map to include other states and even other countries. We want to continue exploring possibilities to make Cyclopath even better.”
Cyclopath was developed with support from the National Science Foundation, MnDOT, the Metropolitan Council, and other local partners.