2 items about bikes

Like most people, I love to ride bikes.  But there are lots of great local cycle blogs, and frankly it’s a mode that I’m less interested in intellectually, so I don’t do a lot of posts on bikes.  A couple things came to my attention recently, though, that I’m going to spend some finger energy on (that sounds kinda gross).

Zombie cyclists from hell spreading love

I used to go to the Whittier Alliance’s Community Issues Committee every month, and just about every month I was entertained by the nonsensical, self-serving, antifactual opinions of some yokel.  To be sure, there were a lot of clever and astute opinions shared as well, but they were less entertaining than the crazy ones.  I remember one occasion when the Midtown Greenway Coalition presented on their search for potential park sites along the greenway, where access points to the path would be combined with community gathering spaces – the idea was to improve greenway safety by getting more eyes down there while getting neighborhood buy-in through the green space.  The Whittierites hated it.  The general opinion was that a neighborhood approached from below was repugnant to decent sensibilities, and sure to result in situations similar to zombies rising from graves in search of brains.

Now there’s evidence that their argument was not only inane, it was thoroughly backwards.  Human Transit today expands on research finding that people traveling upwards tend to be more giving, and speculates that people prefer going up to going down.  I’ll see his speculation and raise him one conjecture:  I’ve noticed that many of the cycletrons zooming around town also seem to be fairly patriotic about Minneapolis (or maybe just a part of town called Mpls).  Is this because the first thing they see after emerging from their subterranean speedway is through benevolent eyes, thanks to the “up escalator” effect?

How to get a Hedberg in cycling

One of my favorite things about Minneapolis is Hedberg Maps – surely the Consumer Mapping Champion of the World, if there were some island where the world’s consumer mapping companies were stranded and forced to fight using randomly-strewn rusty auto parts.  Hedberg is the master of cramming tons of info into a map using a clever palette that leaves it clean and appealing but informative.  They are also noteworthy for producing thematic maps on topics so obscure they could only be of interest to a handful of fanatics, for example interstate highway numbering, Santa Claus and the Wisconsin Dells.  Hedberg is located in the labyrinthine, art-riddled Northrup King building, and are very friendly – I recommend stopping by after you finish your dog at Uncle Franky’s.

Anyway, fresh off the completion of their Twin Cities Dog Lovers map, Hedberg banged out Minneapolis’ new bike map, which has a helpful zoom-able online iteration.  Despite not having seen a paper copy, I have a few comments on the map.

  • This one seems less up to Hedberg’s aesthetic snuff – giving width to every street in the city (as opposed to depicting them as lines) makes for a pretty overwhelming map.  They maybe should have minimized the many streets that don’t have features.
  • The advantage to giving streets width on a bike map is that you can show which side of the street the lane(s) are on.  So why do they bother to symbolize on-street lanes differently from off-street shoulders?  Wouldn’t most readers figure out that the off-street facilities are the ones without streets attached to them?
  • Compounding this last problem, many facilities depicted on the map do not yet exist.  They are distinguished by adding the year 2011 in red on some part of the segment-to-be.  There are two problems with this approach:
    • The reader is not sure which part of the segment has not been striped, especially because dotted lines are often used to show planned features.
    • Minneapolis is not known for its punctuality in striping bike lanes (I have an email from Shaun Murphy claiming the 1st-Blaisdell lanes would be striped in 2010).

      Twins Way or just a highway?

  • There is really an awesome amount of detail here.  I especially like the inclusion of Hi-Frequency Bus Routes. Not sure about the inclusion of the Nice Ride stations though – these tend to move around a bit, and supposedly there will be a bunch added this year, making the map obsolete.
  • I found one error:  They striped an off-street trail on the west side of Twins Way.  If there is meant to be such a facility there, I’m pretty sure it’s not indicated with signs or pavement changes.  There is an extra wide sidewalk of stamped concrete but nothing separating modes or even indicating that you can bike there (is a parking ramp a business district?).

Considering Minneapolis Bike Program’s Government 2.0 attitude, I’d guess they gave us a chance to comment on the map and I missed it.  And even though I just found 5 things wrong with it, I actually like the map, particularly the detail and the zoomability.  I’ll keep dreaming of the perfect map, but in the mean time I’ll actually be using this one.





3 comments on “2 items about bikes

  1. Nat Case says:

    Hey, thanks for the kind words. Bike maps are admittedly a newer challenge for us, and we’ve been taking that challenge pretty seriously. And I appreciate the critique–I wish more Minnesotans weren’t so Minnesotan about stuff like this.

    A few points: we knew the map would be around for more than a few months, and so putting “planned” routes on was important–it would have been just as problematic to NOT show routes that will be showing up one way or another in the next few months. As you say, who can say which of those months any given infrastructure will appear in, but… well, we do what we can do.

    “The advantage to giving streets width on a bike map is that you can show which side of the street the lane(s) are on. So why do they bother to symbolize on-street lanes differently from off-street shoulders? Wouldn’t most readers figure out that the off-street facilities are the ones without streets attached to them?”

    It’s a point, I suppose, but some of those bike trails hug the roads pretty tightly. That whole put-the-lane-on-the-correct-side thing is something that occurred to me as I was designing these maps (Nice Ride’s map came first, by a few months, but the whole rethinking and working through of urban bike map design was all of a piece over middle 6 months of 2010). Does anyone else do it? I’d be curious if you know of other examples that do.

    Twins Way: Well, I was told it was a bikeway. That’s all I can tell you. I’ve had it from a variety of sources that that is in fact what the extra-wide sidewalk there is all about: access from the Cedar Lake Trail. I haven’t been on it since last spring, but it you’re right that looked pretty un-marked then. Might be worth bringing up with the powers that be…

    Now, your first comment: white streets vs dark streets. I’ll get straight to the point I made in a talk to a bunch of cartographers about this topic last fall: The problem with urban bike maps is, you’re talking about several competing layers of networking here: on one hand, there’s the drivable streets network, some of which cyclists use, some of which they absolutely do not. Some of which contain bike infrastructure, some of which do not. And then that bike infrastructure also includes off-street stuff, and you want the bike infrastructure to hang together visually as a related network, and the streets to hang together as related network…

    What I’ve concluded is, if you’re showing a TRAILS network primarily, and especially if you’re using a pretty small scale, like we do on the Minnehaha Media maps, a dark-line road network makes sense, because as you point out, the trails network is by definition separate from the on-road network. Except where it isn’t. If you’re working on a mixed trail-and-street network like on this map or the Nice Ride maps, white streets work better. And somewhere in the middle, it’s a balancing act, without a clear answer. Take a look at the 2011 Nice Ride map… I’m not as happy as I was with last year’s, because we had to reduce the scale, but we did the best we could with the space we had. And I still think it’s within the range where white streets work better. Basically, I think the boundary is the point where the streets’ two-dimensionality simply doesn’t read anymore and they really do become lines instead of space.

    I want to give credit where it’s due: I took a lot of inspiration from Dennis McClendon’s Chicago Bike Map and from Steve Spindler’s mapping in Philadelphia and DC. Both used white streets, and after comparing these with dark-street maps, I decided it was the way to go, at least for this project.

    Anyway, I’d love to sit down with you sometime and get some more feedback to improve the map for the next edition. Do pick up a paper map; it’s what the design was built for. And I’d be curious if your opinion changes, using a paper map. I find the change of medium makes a surprising difference in how a map reads.

    Thanks again, and stay in touch.

    Nat Case
    Hedberg Maps.

    • Wow, thanks for writing – I’m a huge fan so it’s very exciting to hear from you. I write most of my entries in a caffeine-fueled psychosis so I’m sorry if it came off as harsh – I really do like the map and I probably should have written 5 things I like about it, too.

      Maybe I was just thinking of the NiceRide maps having put the lane on the right side of the road – in which case congratulations for having begun a revolution in bike mapping, because that feature is incredibly useful. It seems like some rudiments of that approach have been on some OpenStreetMap stuff and maybe some European city maps – I’ll have to put on my thinking cap (translation: drink more coffee) and get back to you.

      I’m gonna pick up the paper copy today and I’ll update this post with my thoughts. Thanks for writing and yes, I would LOVE to provide feedback on a future edition.

  2. […] couple weeks ago I wrote about the outstanding new online Minneapolis Bike Map, which I adore but, due to an emotional […]

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