Ride the City Debuts New San Francisco Bike Route Map

ride_the_city_tiffany_route.jpg

Despite Google making headlines recently with the addition of bicycle directions in Google Maps, a New York City startup called Ride the City had already been offering their bicycle mapping service for two years, earning a loyal following among cyclists there. Now, Ride the City is live in San Francisco, with route maps and features they hope will earn the respect and loyalty of San Francisco bicycle riders. 

"We want to focus on bicycling as commuting," said co-founder Vaidila Kungis. "Our emphasis isn’t on the
lycra boys or the fixie crowds. We’re focusing on the bicycle commuters."

San Francisco is the ninth city where Ride the City operates and Kungis said they had initially hoped to expand to San Francisco immediately, but data acquisition was tricky.

"Quite a few cities own their data and they can give it away for free," he said. "San Francisco doesn’t own its street data, it licenses it from Tele Atlas, one of the largest owners of data."

Kungis noted their product uses a base map from Open Street Map (OSM), which is an editable open source map of the world, essentially the Wikipedia of maps. "We’re very proud to be using OSM as our base map," he said.

Kungis also pointed out that merchants or others who want to encourage bicycle commuters to ride to their destinations can get a URL on their site that will automatically give bicycle directions via Ride the City.

While Ride the City has some advertising, Kungis admitted he and his team have gone into debt to make the network of sites possible. Quick to downplay any competition with Google, Kungis nevertheless said the small size of the company allowed them to be responsive to feedback to help tailor routing guidance to reflect the way bicycle riders actually travel.

To change route guidance that doesn’t match your daily commute, said Kungis, you should register with the site and then select the legs of your route, rating them and replacing segments that don’t fit your travel patterns. With enough local knowledge and feedback, Kungis hoped Ride the City will be the most useful mapping service for San Francisco cyclists.

To this end, I told Kungis I found a route discrepancy on both his service and Google Maps for bicycles that didn’t reflect the way cyclists use a street near my house. When riding north along San Jose Avenue to Valencia, I’ve seen most cyclists turn right on 29th Street, then left on Tiffany Avenue, taking advantage of the bicycle pass-through in the traffic calming median at the intersection of Tiffany, Duncan and Valencia Streets. This de facto bicycle boulevard block seems to be far preferable to riding on San Jose to Cesar Chavez and then trying to cross three lanes of racing vehicles.

Kungis and his team made note of the pass through in the median, changing it to be a class-one facility, and the mapping guidance now encourages the route.

Of course, thousands of people read Streetsblog every day, so maybe they were giving me special treatment. And I could be wrong: Maybe that route isn’t the way most people navigate those streets. Check out the site and let the developers know how you use the streets and how they can improve the service.

  • First thing I noticed is they don’t have Warm Planet (next to Caltrain 4th/King) listed.

  • But looks pretty sweet. I look forward to testing it out. Thanks Matthew.

  • I don’t think I believe what they say about the Tele Atlas license. San Francisco’s street network is available from datasf.org, and includes many rights of way that are not in Tele Atlas. And recent TIGER maps seem to be pretty clearly derived from the datasf data.

  • Re: Eric’s comment (#3). You’re right on. It’s true that the City provides the street network data but it’s not a complete data set and doesn’t include all the attributes that are necessary for routing. The data can be accessed here: http://www.sfgov.org/site/gis_index.asp?id=104979 We used some of this data to inform our routing, especially in neighborhoods that have changed recently, so it was a great help.

  • I didn’t mean my comment to sound negative either. I tried it out and it looks nice.

  • Interesting. Hard to impart tribal knowledge like “Go through the Best Buy Parking Lot” especially since that is only useful if you take the (illegal) left onto Bryant from Division. But that is how 90% of Caltrainers get to Caltrain from the Mission.

  • Nick

    I have to admit I don’t like it. The streets here have too many nuances for a machine to take into consideration.

    I prefer asking other cyclists for directions when I’m in a different neighborhood (or giving them when they’re in mine). Most people are happy to help you out.

    And all this talk of bike maps is overlooking the fact that SF doesn’t even have any bike maps posted on the street. Shouldn’t there be signage out there similar to those MUNI maps? They should put one in a parklet or next to some on-street bike parking.

  • Alexei

    Not super-impressed, so far. I’d like to see more attention paid to hills, and options for choosing shortest vs flattest routes.

    What exactly is the difference between “safer” and “safe”?

    Does not handle the GGP to Panhandle transition well– worse than Google. They both direct you to make a bizarre u-turn on Stanyan, but this adds another weird move at the JFK/Kezar Drive intersection.

  • peternatural

    My normal commute takes 14 minutes. Ride the city suggested a shorter route (same route suggested by google maps). I finally tried it today and saved 2 minutes! But I’ll stick to the longer route. It’s a lot more bike-friendly. On the short route I have to share narrow lanes with high speed traffic. I’d ride a mile to avoid that 😉

  • peternatural –

    What’s the starting and ending point you’re using (intersection is fine) and what’s your preferred route? We can take a look at making your preferred route the ‘safer’ route.

    Thanks,
    jordan
    jordan@ridethecity.com

  • peternatural

    Jordan,

    I sent feedback via “rate route”. Basically I’m going from the Haight (Page St. at Clayton) into the Presidio. The suggested route is via Masonic, while I prefer to go into GG Park (via Page or the bike path in the panhandle) and out Arguello (which has a bike lane) into the Presidio.

    Masonic is a designated bike route on paper, but in my opinion it’s terrible for biking. Taking it regularly would shorten my life expectancy quite a bit, I’m afraid. (And the other way is more beautiful).

  • peternatural,
    Completely agree with you that avoiding Masonic north of the Panhandle is good for health and safety, especially during the morning or evening rush.

  • Nick

    The problem with any bike mapping system is that they need lots of feedback from cyclists before they become useful. Or you could hire 5 local cyclists (from different areas of the city) and get a decent system operational within a month.

    Expecting people to do it for free is kind of a waste of your start-up potential. And offering a system that is not up and running means most of us will never visit that website again.

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