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Archive for November, 2009

Submit your bike data to Google

November 19, 2009 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

Google told us last month that they were working on bike directions, but they didn’t make a big deal out of telling us how to help. Well, I could be mistaken, but it looks like the offer to ‘partner’ on bike directions (and all sorts of ‘mappy’ features) is just sitting there, waiting for folks to get to it.

If you speak ‘nerd’, or know someone who does, then the rest of this could apply to you. There are some high-level FAQs about data formats, and a link to a form to fill-out if you have some data and you want to partner with Google to get your data integrated into Google Maps. The data we most care about here, of course, is bike-related data — bike lanes, routes, paths, etc.

Who has bike data? Well, cities and bicycle coalitions, probably — and/or the folks who hold the copyrights on maps/data, if they are copyrighted. [Of course you know how we feel about this type of data -- it should be free free free.]

If you are a planner/GIS-type person in the Bicycle division of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, then maybe you can help Google get us some bike directions — just fill out the form and see what happens. Could the good folks of our local bike coalition (the folks who put out the bike map) possibly work with Google to get this done? Got me — there’s one way to find out. [SFBC is up to 11,000+ members, now.]

Whatever city or town you live in, do your best to convince someone — I’d start with your local walk/bike/transit advocacy organization, if you have one — to contact the city/town/municipal government and ask them to follow up on this.

What does bike data look like? A lot of it is over my head, but we can look at Google’s “Complete Map Content Specifications“. There are lots of details, of course, but the human-understandable parts are very cool. If you’ve wondered what the GTFS format for bikes was going to be, we may have our first draft.

Can the data format handle wide curbs vs. bike lanes vs. one-ways vs. two-ways vs. high-speed arterials vs. bike boulevards vs. contraflow lanes vs. buffered bike lanes? I’m not sure, but it looks like it’s pretty flexible and can handle most if not all of the crazy configurations and complexities that occur in road networks.

New roads and bicycle and pedestrian paths

Google is presently accepted two specific types of network data: new roads, and bicycle and pedestrian paths.

  • Use a segment-based representation: a segment is part of a road between two intersections. We can not accept roads that have multiple intersections hanging off of them.
  • The street format is similar in many ways to the address format, with the exception of the different street number format.
  • All address ranges should be specified relative to the the geometry (that is, the right side is to the right of the path from the start of the segment to the end of the segment).

The following fields are useful for roads and bike and pedestrian paths. Fields marked as “optional for BP” are not necessary for bike and pedestrian paths:

Field Description Example values
ID A unique and stable identifier for the road segment Any alphanumeric string (e.g. “14232514″)
AR_RT_FR (optional for BP) Starting address on right hand side, relative to geometry 42
AR_RT_TO (optional for BP) Ending address on right hand side, relative to geometry 58
AR_LT_FR (optional for BP) Starting address on left hand side, relative to geometry 41
AR_LT_TO (optional for BP) Ending address on left hand side, relative to geometry 57
ST_NAME Street Name and Type (the words Street, Avenue, etc., can be abbreviated) Powell St
ST_NM_A1 (optional) Alternative Name 1 U.S. 101
ST_NM_A2 (optional) Alternative Name 2
NEIGHBH (optional) Neighborhood Name Union Square
CITY City Name San Francisco
STATE State (Two Letter Abbreviation) CA
ZIP (optional for BP) 5-digit zip code 94108
CNT_NAME (optional) County Name San Francisco
CNT_FIPS (optional) County code (see here and here.) 06075
ONEWAY (optional for BP) One-wayness - relative to the direction of geometry “None”, “To-From”, and “From-To”
PRIORITY (optional for BP) We would consider the following levels: interstate, federal/state highway, expressway, minor arterial, local, not intended for public traffic. minor arterial
LANES (optional) Number of lanes 2
SURFACE (optional) Road Surface Paved or Unpaved
SPEED_LM (optional) Speed limit in MPH 55
AVG_SP (optional) Average Speed 25
CAR (optional) Cars are allowed on this segment? Allowed, Small vehicles only (mopeds etc), None, Disallowed
PEDEST (optional) Whether the segment allows bikes, and if so, what type it is One of: Trail, Walkway, Mall, Sidewalk, Wide Shoulder, None, Disallowed
BIKE (optional) Whether the segment allows bikes, and if so, what type it is One of: Trail, Bike Lane, Wide Shoulder, Recommended, None, Disallowed
SEPARATED (optional) Whether the road is separated by a barrier in the middle
Y/N
TURN_R (optional) Turn Restrictions (or see below for exact format) Freeform text
ELEVATION (optional) If the road is elevated, or a bridge or a tunnel
One of: bridge, tunnel, overpass, underpass

We are happy to accept turn restrictions as freeform text to make it easier for people to submit data as turn restriction formats can be very complicated. We can accept turn restrictions in any format. However, to assist, here is a model format that would typically be delivered as a CSV file or a DBF file:

Field Description Example
FROM_ID The ID (see the id column above of a road segment) of the segment where the turn restriction starts 14232514
FROM_END The end of the segment the turn restriction applies to relative to its geometry. Either “FROM” or “TO”
TO_ID The ID (see the id column of a road segment) of the segment where the turn restriction ends 14232599
TO_END The end of the segment the turn restriction applies to relative to its geometry Either “FROM” or “TO”
MODE The mode of transportation the limitation applies to. Either “ALL”, “PEDESTRIAN”, “CAR”, “TRUCK”, “BUS” or “NON-HOV”
START_TM The start time of the turn restriction, in 24 hour notation. Leave this and END_TM blank for permanent restriction 06:00
END_TM The end time of the turn restriction, in 24 hour notation. Leave this and START_TM blank for permanent restriction 10:00
TYPE Type of turn restriction Either “NO LEFT TURN”, “NO RIGHT TURN” or “NO U-TURN”

Special thanks to The Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) (wiki), who just blogged about our petition (thanks, y’all!), and in doing so, they implored us to assist Google if our help was requested. The TSTC is sort of a group of transportation/environmental/sustainability superheroes and their respective organizations from the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut areas (the ‘Tri-State Area’). They work on all the sorts of things we care about, and it seems like lots of important people have worked with them or for them at one point or another. [Janette Sadik-Khan was on their Board of Directors.] It was their blog post that made me re-examine Google’s Data Format/Submission site.