byCycle is Back!

I had some free time and decided to get byCycle back up and running, mainly just for fun (yep, writing code is fun).

It’s pretty much the same as it was before (i.e., mostly unchanged since July of ’07), and I’m not sure how old the underlying data is (I scrounged it up from backups), but everything seems to be working and someone might find it useful.

I had to make some changes in the back end to get things working, but none of that is visible to users of the site. There are a lot of changes and fixes I would like to make[1], but I probably won’t do much more with it unless there’s a surge of interest.

Let me know if you’re using the site or have any comments (you can leave a comment below, too).

If you’re interested in the technical side of things, the code is now on Bitbucket: back end, web app. The site itself is hosted by WebFaction.

[1] Here are some of them:

  • Update the Portland data
  • Directions to/from here by clicking the map
  • Maybe switch to using OpenStreetMap data (currently using an old copy of RLIS)
  • Get the Portland bike map layer back up (I thought this was one of the best features of the site)
  • Upgrade Google Maps to version 3
  • Port from prototype.js to jQuery
  • Use Bootstrap for basic layout and widgets?
  • Clean up and rearchitect all the code!
  • &c

New York Times Article

In a well rounded article posted on April 4th, New York Times writer Matt Furber highly recommends seeing Portland by bike, and mentions the byCycle Trip Planner as a useful tool for newcomers.

The article has brought an increase in our most commonly asked question: “How can I get this in my city?

We have put together a simple FAQ addressing this topic.

1. What do I need to do to get started?
Two things: Data and Money.

2. How much does it cost?

We estimate it would cost $10,000-$20,000 to get a city started. This does not include hosting or special application features.

3. What kind of data do I need, and where can I get it?
The data you need must have specific information about biking streets.

4. Can we hire byCycle to integrate our city into the Trip Planner?
We are available on a limited basis. If you are very serious about integrating your city we may be able to help you. Before inquiring, we recommend researching the data available in your city, and locating a viable source of funding.

5. I have some data, some funding, and I’m very serious. How can I get my city plugged in?

It is our long term goal to see many cities available for trip planning using the byCycle Trip Planner. Although our time is limited, we are glad to begin communication with serious parties regarding data integration.

In the event that we are unavailable, it is worth noting that the byCycle Trip Planner is now open source. See here and here for more information about working on this open source project. We are available for a minimal amount of consulting for people interested in using the open source code.

6. Do you plan to add any other features to the Trip Planner?

We stopped working on the Trip Planner about two years ago when our developer got a full time job. At this time, we don’t have plans to make any major changes to the Trip Planner, but would consider it if funding was available. The byCycle Trip Planner is open source, so enthusiasts are welcome to make additions to this community project.

We won an Alice Award!

Last Saturday Wyatt won an Alice Award for his work on the byCycle Trip Planner. Alice Awards, given out by the BTA each year, are intended to recognize “individuals, businesses, and organizations in Oregon and SW Washington whose work has promoted the use of bicycles and increased the livability of our communities.” (from BTA website) Five awards are given out each year. Other Alice awardees included the mayor of Salem for building Salem’s first pedestrian and bike bridge, Trimet’s Rose Quarter Transit Center Bike Lane Team, Officer Robert Pickett, and Shane Rhodes for his work with Safe Routes To School in Eugene and “Kiddical Mass”.

Wyatt was pleased to accept this award on behalf of the byCycle team. We would like to extend a special thank you to the following people who helped make Trip Planner possible:

Mark Bosworth and Metro for donating the map data and site hosting
Jack Newlevant for making Metro’s map data usable for bike routing
Wyatt’s parents for their general supportiveness

Thank you as well for the donations received from users, friend, and family over the years to help keep this community tool alive.

Though Wyatt declined the opportunity to give a speech, he said when he stood to receive the award it was exhilarating to see so much genuine enthusiasm in the audience over the Trip Planner. Winning the Alice Award has inspired us to make some simple changes to the site in our spare time. Expect to see more regular blog posts and some general cleaning up.

Jonathan at BikePortland.org gives a more detailed account of the Alice Awards here.

Lines as Long as You Like

Today, inspired by a recent donation*, I finally got around to speeding up the display of long route lines (i.e., the line marking a route on the trip planner map). Previously, long route lines would take a long time to show up, and when a line was too long, it just wouldn’t show up at all, possibly crashing the user’s browser. Obviously not good.

What happened was, I got notification of a donation and saw that the person making the donation lives in Beaverton. I tried getting a route from Beaverton to downtown Portland, but the route never came up because the line was too long. I felt bad that someone had made a donation but might not even be able to get directions over a relatively short distance, so I got to work on fixing the problem.

So, skipping over the technical aspects, I’ll just say that now it should be possible to get a route of just about any length. It still takes a while to generate a really long route, but once the route info gets back to the user’s browser, the line drawing is almost instantaneous. Even for short routes there’s a noticeable speedup.

This has been bugging me for a long time, so I’m glad it’s finally fixed. As usual, if you notice any problems, please let us know.

* Big thanks to Rebecca in Beaverton.

New Version of Trip Planner Launched

Last week we launched a new version of the trip planner. On the surface, it doesn’t look much different from the previous version, but “under the hood”* it has changed significantly. Moving forward, it should be easier for us to add new features and fix any issues that come up (and issues are sure to come up, as you may have noticed already).

We’d love to hear your feedback on any aspect of the trip planner–what features we should add, what doesn’t work for you, etc. Please keep in mind though that the trip planner is a complicated beast and we have very limited resources with which to make improvements.

That brings me to the next topic, which is byCycle’s financial status. Since the start of the year, we have only generated $151.60 in revenue. At this rate, byCycle is not going to be “in business” much longer. We are looking into ways to remedy this situation. In the meantime, we could sure use some community support. Please consider making a donation or buying something from our online store.

In the next edition (coming soon), I’m going to write about the latest developments in our relationship with Metro**–stay tuned!

–Wyatt

* Ironic, I know. I would like to say “under the [part of the bike that contains all the complicated and mysterious machinery]” but most everything on a bike is out in the open or available for relatively easy inspection.

** Metro is the Portland area’s regional government.

Scroll Wheel Zooming Added

A few days ago Google added scroll wheel zooming to their public maps API. Today, I enabled that feature in the trip planner. It was really simple, only requiring the addition of one line of JavaScript code.

This feature has been available on the official Google Maps site for a while, but it wasn’t available to third party developers until three days ago [1].

Another feature Google released recently is the ability to encode long lines for more efficient rendering. For long routes, this means the annoying “this script is taking a long time, do you want to continue popup” shouldn’t come up again.

We haven’t incorporated this into the trip planner yet but will some time in the next week or so (it’s a bit more complicated than adding scroll wheel zooming). I wrote some code that does the line encoding; now I just need to set up the back end to encode lines before sending them to the Web.

[1] Google Maps blog post about scroll wheel zooming

Bikini Bandits

I found this movie clip on the BTA‘s blog. The Bikini Bandits are “a specially trained team of enthusiastic young women” who encourage Danish motorists to slow down to the speed limit.

(The bandits seem to have lost their bikini tops. Be forwarned, if you follow the link, you might be subject to some partial nudity. Good heavens.)

I wonder if a campaign of this nature would encourage Portland motorists to be just a tad more patient and cautious around bikers, pedestrians, dogs, and all other things on the road that aren’t encased in metal and weigh over 500 lbs?

Lauren

Non-Profit or Not?

We’ve been batting around the idea of becoming a non profit for almost a year, and have recently set a goal to decide once and for all.

We aren’t interested in making a profit with the trip planner, but would like to some how gather enough money to cover costs and perhaps pay the people that work on it. Being a non profit will give us access to much needed funds, but we are concerned that it will limit the types of things we are able to do with our software.

Some of our concerns are:

  • what will happen to the soft ware if we do become a non-profit and later dissolve?
  • what kinds of limitations will it place upon us?
  • are we even eligible to attain non profit status?

Should byCycle become a non profit? Let us know by making a comment below.