Newbie cycling: Mapping my way around
As a new cyclist, I'm still very uncomfortable with riding in traffic when I don't have a bike lane all to myself.
The problem is, I don't yet know where all the bike lanes are in the downtown core. I tried checking out the City of Toronto's map, but it's so big and I found it hard to keep track of where everything was. Then I discovered Ride the City.
Ride the City allows you to choose the kind of route you want to take: direct, safe or safer. Direct means just that, direct. The difference between safe and safer is that safer will go out of its way to put you on a bike lane or route.
I decided to give it a try by seeing how it would take me to work. I pick up my Bixi bike in the morning at the St. Lawerence Market station located at King and Jarvis Sts., so to me the most direct route would be to come down Jarvis to Queens Quay and across to 1 Yonge St. If I were to wager a guess, the "safest" route for me would be to go across King St to Sherbourne St., and take the bike lane all the way down to Queen's Quay and across.
(For the record, my normal route for the most excercise is to go across King St. to Parliament St., down to and across Queens Quay to Yonge St.)
Ride the City took me none of those ways. This was my "safer" route:
I guess the Esplanade is one of the safest streets to be on, but right now you can't go westbound on it from Scott St. to Yonge due to the condo development being built there. Even if I could go westbound there, you can't turn left on Yonge St. — there's a concrete barrier preventing you from doing so.
While he couldn't speak on my map giving me an illegal left turn, Kungys said that Ride the City takes user feedback and adds it into a map as required.
"Sometimes it's a case that there's a barrier, but there is space for a bicycle to get through," he explained. "So if a user tells us, 'This a major connection, we use this a lot and you're routing is showing we can't turn here, but in fact we can,' then we can go in there and make changes so the routing can reflect what's happening in the real world."
My safe route, which was the same as my direct route, varied just a little bit:
Kungys said Ride the City uses Open Street Map as the souce of data going forward. Toronto's version of Ride the City has Open Street Map's interface, but its information is manually fed in by Kungys or Anderson.
"Direct isn't always direct by the same path a car would take," Kungys said, adding that while Ride the City will keep users off highways and other areas a bike shouldn't be, such as main arteliary roads.
As well as the web version, there are iPhone and Android applications for Ride the City.