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

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

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!


* 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

Upgraded to Python 2.5

I just got done installing Python 2.5 and converting the trip planner code to use it instead of 2.4. The only required change was pointing the “dispatch” file at the 2.5 executable. No other changes to the code were required to make it run on

A few little things also got cleaned up, and I updated to the latest versions of MySQLdb (1.2.2b3) and simplejson (1.5).

Hopefully nothing will blow up.

Pittsburgh Removed From Trip Planner

After months of deliberation, we finally decided to go ahead and remove the Pittsburgh region from the trip planner (and, poof, it’s gone). The immediate trigger for the removal was a forwarded email that contained, amongst other things, the following: “Being from Pittsburgh, I chose Pittsburgh. I couldn’t get anything to work.” Ouch.

Here’s the (heavily condensed) story behind the Pittsburgh trip planner. At the end of 2005 we were contacted by someone in Pittsburgh who was interested in integrating the area into the trip planner. She had a plan to get a grant from a local organization to support her work. She eventually got the grant and worked for several months to get the region online.

Unfortunately, for various technical and other reasons, the Pittsburgh version was never quite “up to snuff” (as they say). It was never supported by any Pittsburgh-local organizations, and after the initial integration, the person who did the integration moved to another city and hasn’t worked on it since.

Most of the feedback we have gotten from people in Pittsburgh has been negative–addresses not found, routes on the highway, etc.

We have never had the resources to work on the Pittsburgh version ourselves and have been hoping that a Pittsburgh bike organization (or some individual) would step up to the task, especially given that a proof-of-concept version had been created and, in all likelihood, just needed a bit of ongoing love and attention.

Many times we’ve discussed whether we should remove the Pittsburgh region. On the plus side, we had something that worked and that someone could work from to create something better. On the minus side, it was unsupported, didn’t work well, and was reflecting poorly on us. (Please note that I’m not saying the other regions are perfect, but they are at least nominally supported by local organizations.)

If you or someone you know or some group is interested in working on and supporting the Pittsburgh trip planner, please get in touch.

Trip Planner Updates 1/25

We hadn’t touched the online version of the trip planner in months, since we’ve been working on a new (imporoved!) version. In the last week or so, though, I got sick of looking at the old design and decided to make a few changes.

This wasn’t a complete overhaul, as we are focusing our efforts on the upcoming version, but I think it’s quite a bit nicer than before. Overall, it just feels less clunky.

Under the hood, nothing has changed. For example, for the Portland region, we’re still using data from 2004 (with some updates), but that should be changing fairly soon–hopefully within the next month or so.

Please check it out and let us know what you think.

Trevor in Austin

As you may have noticed from a previous post, Trevor is in Austin working with various people to try and get Austin integrated into the bicycle route finder. We met him some time last year (at Vita Cafe on NE Alberta) after he contacted us about the idea of bringing the trip planner with him when he moved back to Austin. He is going to be blogging about the proceedings here, so “stay tuned.”

Problems with the Trip Planner in the Last Day or So

Our hosting provider moved all our files to a new server–without letting us know before hand that they were going to do so. Most things kept working. A few did not, as you may have

The reason some things stopped working is, the new server is running a newer version of the operating system and some of the software the trip planner depends on[1] had to be recompiled [reinstalled from source code].

Though I think the upgrade is a good thing overall, I hope they let us know about it before they do it next time!

[1] The MySQL bindings for Python, in case you really wanted to know. I also updated Python from 2.4.3 to 2.4.4, but I don’t know if that was strictly necessary.