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Ride the City - Calgary

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Image from Bike Calgary

At about 1.1 million people, Calgary, Alberta, is Canada’s third-largest city and fifth-largest metropolitan area. As a young, largely suburban, sprawling metropolis it is less known for cycling, and more as a North American capital of the oil and gas industry, the Calgary Stampede rodeo, and for the winter Olympics hosted here in 1988. Despite reputation and expectations, however, cycling is increasingly popular in Calgary. A network of walking and cycling paths, at 700 km (434 mi) the most extensive in North America, provides not only opportunities for recreational cycling but also convenient, safe, and often scenic commute routes.

The city has made great strides recently toward becoming bike friendly. It adopted a comprehensive Cycling Strategy last year and committed almost $25 million to improving cycling facilities until 2015. Change is coming, but it is coming slowly. The first bike lanes in the downtown commercial core probably will not be installed until 2013, and overall the city so far has only about 20 km of on-street bike lanes. This makes finding a safe and comfortable cycling route in Calgary often a challenge, especially since at over 825 sq km (319 sq mi), its land area is huge (larger than, e.g., the five boroughs of New York City). Urban and suburban areas intermix with industrial areas and expansive regional parks along the Bow and Elbow rivers and Nose and Fish creeks. A network of designated on-street bike routes exists, but is poorly signed. Paper maps are hard to come by.

In this situation a flexible, convenient, reliable tool to find your way around by bicycle is even more important than it is in bike-friendly cities like New York, Portland, Vancouver, and Montreal.

So we are happy to announce that Ride the City now covers Calgary: go to Ride the City - Calgary!

Ride the City is a routing application specially geared towards cycling. It will find routes based on three settings: direct, safe, and safer. In the safe and safer settings, Ride the City will steer you towards pathways and streets with bike lanes. It comes with apps for both iPhone and Android smartphones. And you can save your preferred destinations and routes, and to add points of interest.

Things you can do with Ride the City:

  • Begin/end by dragging and dropping the start/stop icons to the map, or entering an address for each
  • Find a bike route that prioritizes bike lanes or is the most direct
  • See the bike shops and click 'em to get store info (hours, location, website)
  • Login for free to save routes and add points of interest
  • Create a custom directions page to make it easier for bicyclists to find your business/event
  • Embed Ride the City into your own website
  • Use Ride the City on your mobile iPhone or Android device
  • Provide feedback to improve the routing

The last bullet is important if you want to help to change the map in your neighborhood. Ride the City is based on data that comes from Open Street Map (OSM), the volunteer effort to map the world. As OSM data is free to use under the Creative Commons license, it makes it possible to provide a free service like Ride the City. OSM data can be edited by anyone, so OSM users can add bike paths, points of interest, or information about Calgary’s roads that make routing more reliable (e.g., bike lanes, number of lanes, speed limits). These improvements to OSM are then again available for anyone to use (not just for Ride the City) so that anyone can make a high quality map based on OSM, e.g., local cycling organizations like Bike Calgary can develop their own neighborhood bike maps with a custom, unique look.

Ride the City has partnered with Bike Calgary to improve Calgary’s bicycle routes and pathways for Open Street Map. But Calgary is a big place, and no doubt sometimes Ride the City will run into difficulties finding a good route or produce one that’s surprisingly out of the way. And because Calgary continues to expand, changes to the map like new neighborhoods, streets, interchanges, and pathways will sometimes have to be added.

Ride the City - Calgary will continue to improve as more people contribute to Open Street Map by adding pathways, connect pathways to streets, and make other corrections (adding street names, one-way streets, or by adding tags to show that cycling is allowed on certain paths and sidewalks). If you have feedback on Ride the City - Calgary, you can provide it directly to Ride the City (See the FAQ for How to Suggest a Better Route) or to the Bike Calgary volunteers working on Open Street Map in the Bike Calgary forums.