Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Longish day, shortish ride

It was an early start today, dropping my daughter off at Heathrow before dawn to catch her flight, then back home to finish off a particularly complicated report. I emailed that off this afternoon, then I cleared a few things off the pile of unfinished admin. Finally, just as I was preparing to bunk off for a bike ride, the phone rang and I had an interesting discussion about some tricky questions.

Finally I set off on the bike for a short loop round nearby villages, thinking I would try and fill in a couple roads that seemed to be missing from OSM.

But in a state of increasing vagueness I ended up drifting off my planned route andI forgot that I had set out later than I expected. By the time I managed to make my way home it was becoming dark, and the clock was about an hour ahead of where I thought it should be.

It seems a long time since I crawled out of bed. Since then my cycling log has increased by one ride and 16 miles. This lifts the week's tally to almost 60 miles, and the year's tally to more than 2,500 miles. I've plotted the relevant parts of my route on OSM, and soon the map will be a few very short lengths of road nearer to completion. There is one less oustanding report to complete, and the pile of unfinished admin is marginally lower than it was. For a while the household will be down by one daughter, but at least we know that she arrived safely.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Isn't this neat.

I know nothing about this, but it looks really clever. I saw it here.

Monday, 14 September 2009

My first 100 mile ride

The great thing, I'm told, about doing a really long ride is that the sense of achievement comes just from finishing. Which is just as well, because by the time I got back to the start point the car park was almost empty. But it still felt good.

I must start by thanking Mike for talking me into this, for coaching me beforehand, and for supporting me patiently through the ride.

I've been looking forward to this for months with a mix of excitement and anxiety. We drove to the start point up the steep hill that we would have to climb at the end of the ride, and we arrived to find hundreds of serious looking cyclists with some impressive machines. So for about half an hour anxiety was high. But once we got started the first few miles were pretty straightforward, we settled into the ride, and I started to enjoy myself.

By the time we were a third of the way round most of the serious cyclists had whizzed past us, and the rest of us plodded steadily on. The route had been well thought out, it was clearly signed, and well marshalled. It was more hilly than I had expected, but we went through lovely countryside, and some pretty villages. On the way down to Salisbury the weather was perfectly cool and sunny. But after a break, as we worked around Salisbury Plain, the sky clouded over and we hit a bit of a head wind. However, once we reached Devizes the wind had died down again, and I managed a quick turn of speed. After that I was beginning to get seriously tired, but the miles clicking down kept me going. In the final couple of miles It was no surprise when I had to get off and push up Brassknocker Hill. I made it to the end though, and I wasn't the last to finish.

I had a great day, and judging by the state of my legs I might come out of this a bit stronger. But I suspect the real difference is what's changed inside my head. Eighteen months ago, I thought 30 miles was a long ride. A year ago the longest ride I had done was 60 miles, and my average ride was about 15 miles. This year (up to now) I've been quite pleased to do a 50 mile ride almost every week, with an average ride of 25 miles or so. Yesterday has raised the bar. I doubt if I'll do 100 miles very often, but now 50 miles doesn't seem so far. Despite some friendly ribbing I'm not going to be investing in lycra, but I already knew I should work harder on my speed, and yesterday also confirmed that.

Family, friends and colleagues have been generous with encouragement and sponsorship. The organisers and other participants helped to make it an enjoyable day, and Mike made it possible. I normally like to plan my own routes, take my own time, and enjoy my own company on a ride. But yesterday was a reminder that it can sometimes be good to share the experience.

And I could get hooked on Clif bars.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Harding route (2)

Last Saturday I tried to ride round the Harding cycle route near Amersham. I knew I went a bit adrift in a couple of places, but I marked up the sections that I was confident in on OSM. The bits that I plotted have now been rendered on the cycle map. Although it is incomplete I'm quite pleased with the result.

After careful scrutiny of the leaflet and other maps I've managed to figure out where I went wrong as I was following the signs. So I'm now in a better position than I was to fill in the gaps. Having started the process but left gaps, I realise that I'm gradually suckering myself into a series of return visits to complete the Harding route, and then the other two local cycle routes that start from Amersham.

I won't be able to add any more this coming weekend, because Sunday is my attempt on the Wessex 100 (the sponsorship form is here for anyone who wants to support the Anthony Nolan trust). So Amersham will have to wait a bit longer. But completing this and the neighbouring two routes should give me a good excuse for some fine (and fairly energetic) rides over the next month or two.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Bored with plotting admin boundaries on OSM?

Here is the next project

NHT on routes

Fans of the OSM cycle map might be interested to see how different local authorities are rated in the NHT survey for the information they provide on cycle routes. Darlington comes out well in the survey, and Liverpool does not come out well at all.

Of course, since this is measuring perceptions, rather than reality, it doesn't necessarily correspond to the quality of the information each authority provides.

I dont want to have a Boris experience, so lets say that people in Liverpool hold their council to higher standards than people in Darlington. Or perhaps people in Darlington don't like to grumble to market researchers. Or it could be that Darlington actually does provide better information on cycle routes. There are some oddities. I thought that TfL did all the cycle maps for London (and I think they do a pretty good job of it). But information on cycle routes is rated highly by people in Islington , and poorly by people in in Kensington.

Of the councils that are rated highly in this survey the residents of Milton Keynes and Bristol seem particularly well served. They have pretty good coverage on OSM, and they like their council maps. The council is seen as doing a good job in Darlington and Poole, but neither is particularly well covered by OSM.

OSM provides a good alternative for some of the councils that are not seen as providing good cycle route information themselves. This is particularly true of Liverpool, Torbay and Kensington. Other councils that are seem as weak, such as Northamptonshire, Wallsall, Stockport and Staffordshire are also a bit thin on OSM. Cyclists in Cornwall in particular could do with some help.

If there's a pattern to all this, then it's not one I can see.

The survey data is here, and there is an expanded version of my chart here.

Monday, 7 September 2009


I've just noticed that the 2009 data from the NHT survey are now available. I'm not sure how long they have been there, but I just found them this morning. The NHT survey is a postal survey on transport facilities carried out by IPSOS MORI for a number of local authoritites. Seventy-seven took part in 2009, covering a fair chunk of England, but not including my own local council.

The survey asks a number of questions about how the public sees different aspects of road and transport services, including cycling facilities.

The chart shows the results for the cycling questions in three of the counties where I have done a fair amount of riding this year (click through for a larger version). Oxfordshire ranks highly in general, and particularly well for cycle facilities at work, and cycle parking. Buckinghamshire and Northumberland don't come out so well, though Northumberland isn't rated badly on cycle routes.

The authorities that come out best overall for cycling facilities are Milton Keynes, Poole, and South Gloucestershire. Nowhere round here ranks particularly highly.

The web site, more information on the survey, and the data can be found here

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Harding Route

The OSM map for Thame is a bit thin, and my original plan for yesterday's ride had been to cycle there, do a bit of mapping, and cycle home again. But when I realised that someone else is actively working on the town I thought I should find somewhere else. I settled on Amersham, which is a decent ride away, and the starting point for three local cycle routes that I haven't tried yet.

I didn't stay long in Amersham, setting off to ride the "Harding Route". This is named after Thomas Harding, a 16th century religious dissident and martyr. He was a follower of Wycliffe, or a "Lollard" who was sentenced to be burned for his religious beliefs and so tied to a stake at Chesham. Apparently, the priests told people that if they brought wood to burn heretics they would have an indulgence to commit sins for forty days. Once they had lit the fire, someone beat his brains out with a stick.

Happy times.

Anyway, the Harding Route is one of three 25 mile "Heritage" rides around Amersham. This one runs to the north and east. I think they were set up as a millenium project, and they seem to have been well thought out. Certainly this one goes through some nice countryside, and some pretty villages. It's towards the "strenuous" end of my normal range, which means it's hilly enough to be interesting, and then some. Combined with a few tough climbs on the way out to Amersham and the same coming back, I ended up covering just over 60 miles, and by the time I got home I certainly knew I had been for a ride.

The route is reasonably well signed, though some of them are a bit hard to spot. I had to retrace my path a couple of times, and I know I drifted off it at one point. I'm still not sure which bits I followed accurately. As far as I can tell, all the roads I followed are already on Open Street Map, but the cycle route is not marked as such on the map. It shouldn't be too difficult to add it - but I think it's going to need at least one more circuit to be confident of getting it right. Meanwhile the official map is here.

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Economist

This week's Economist has an article about digital maps which is quite interesting, except it manages to avoid mentioning OSM. I can't leave a comment on their site without registering, and someone else has already made the point nicely. So this is my contribution.

I think a link to the OSM cycle map of the area around the Economist offices conveys the message more eloquently than I ever could in words.

Update: encouraged by chilly, I've also commented on the Economist now with a link to the OSM cycle map.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Apology from Wired

I've had a nice apology this evening from the Gadgetlab editor at Wired about using my photo to illustrate their article on OSM.

Apparently their legal team interprets the Creative Commons "noncommercial" license as allowing editorial use in news stories. I find that a bit surprising, but who am I to argue?

Anyway, they say they don't want to upset me so they have replaced my picture with another contribution from a Flickr account that applies different license restrictions. I can't fault them for that, and personally I think they now have a better illustration. You can see it here. The picture they originally used is here.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

August round-up

Four months ago I had just finished my week's ride from Newcastle to Edinburgh, and I'd covered just under 1,200 miles in the first four months of the year. Four months on and my total for the year has now passed 2,200 miles. To reach my goal of 3,249 miles over the year, that leaves just over 1,000 miles to cover in the next four months I'm just ahead of plan.

In the last four months I've also completed this year's Jenkin's quest. Meaning that since the beginning of last year I've used the bike to visit 25 of the best English churches ranked by distance from home. Every time I reach one the distance to the next is a bit further. Each round-trip is now approaching 60 miles, so I've put that project to one side until next year.

So my longer weekend trips are now a mixture. I've been taking advantage of return trips on the train to reach more distant centres, such as Oxford and Winchester, which encourage me to explore new routes. I've also been trying to map some of the gaps in OSM, which means I'm learning more about the local area. And I've fitted in a few interesting destinations and routes, like the Wey Navigation.

Overall I'm covering greater distances, in fewer, longer rides. I hadn't ridden 100km until earlier this year, but now I've done it five times. I've covered my age in kilometres 25 times, and in miles 11 times this year. So my Eddington number is up to 40.

I'm planning to do a 100 mile ride in a couple of weeks time, and that will be the next big challenge. Meanwhile I'm quite pleased with how things are going. My fear was that I would lose interest, and things would tail off, but there's no sign of that happening. Just the opposite. As the rides get more demanding they get more interesting. Where will it all end?