Thursday, September 10, 2009

Website Helps Bicyclists Plot A Safe Route Through The City

When I was a bit younger (I'm 40), while riding my bicycle through the city all I cared about was getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. I weaved, dodged and/or zipped about our crowded streets with abandon. Of course, I wanted to get to my destination in one piece, but I did not think much about getting into an accident. Now, riding around performing errands or commuting to and from the office I want my ride to be smooth, peaceful and, frankly, non-thrilling. All of those white ghost bikes scattered around the city freak me out. These days, I am apt to contemplate the safest bicycle route when heading out, rather than the quickest. I want a bike lane, fewer vehicles, wider roads. I know Chicago's streets pretty well, but I still often find myself wishing I had picked a different route when I'm out riding. Recently, I discovered a website that offers an assist.

Ride The City started in 2008 by Vaidila Kungys (@vaidila) and Jordan Anderson (@jordan_anderson) who met as students at New York University's urban planning program. According to the website, "Like . . . other mapping applications, Ride the City finds the shortest distance between two points, with a difference. First, RTC avoids roads that aren't meant for biking, like highways and busy arterial streets. Second, RTC tries to steer cyclists toward routes that maximize the use of bike lanes, bike paths, greenways, and other bike-friendly streets." The site started out offering mapping services for New York City bikers, but in June, 2009 it added Chicago. Austin and Louisville were also added this summer. Much like Google Maps and Mapquest, the user chooses two points on a map and the application depicts a route. You get to choose whether you'd like to see the most direct route, a safe route or a "safer" route. The service works well for middle-agers like me and for folks more like my mid-20s self who just want to get there fast. My only complaint with Ride The City at this point is that you have to be at a computer to use it. An iPhone or other smartphone application would be tremendously helpful.
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