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BBBike Can Be Ported to Other Cities

September 17, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

We first wrote about BBBike back in June. At that time, we were a bit taken aback by just how many features the desktop version of BBBike had. The problem was, the tool was only available for a couple of German cities.

Well, a couple of German PERL hackers (the desktop version of BBBike is written in PERL/TK), Wolfram Schneider and Andreas Hetey, have attempted to port BBBike to some new cities, including Amsterdam, Basel, Cambridge, Colmar, Copenhagen, Cracow, Erlangen, Freiburg, Hannover, Karlsruhe, Laibach, San Francisco, Wien, and Zuerich. That is, they wrote a tool to convert OpenStreetMap data to a format that can be consumed by BBBike. (I think.)

Alas, there is a catch. The data used for these new cities is from, and that data is not yet optimized for bicycle travel. That is, it does not know about things that are important to bicyclists, like where the bike lanes and paths and hills are.

But we can help by contributing to the OpenStreetMap project—specifically, by adding to the data already available in our towns, especially bicycle-related data. I actually couldn’t tell you exactly how bicycle-related data needs to make it into the OpenStreetMap project. I’m guessing you can just click on specific roads and routes and designate them as having bicycle lanes, et al. I’ll have to look into this more.

Wolfram suggested that the software was very much still in beta, and that we should really download the desktop version if we wanted more than 20% of the features available.

You can view a video of Wolfram and Andreas presenting their “Copenhagen port” of BBBike at the YAPC::Europe::2008 (Yet Another PERL Conference) here, and a PDF of their slides is here. I’ve embedded the version of their presentation below:

I tried the online version of BBBike for San Francisco and it seemed to do an OK job for some routes, but not for others. That’s about what we’d expect given the state of the data. Maybe give your town a spin and see what you come up with.

For those places without great OpenStreetMap coverage yet, I’m hoping the GPS-enabled iPhone and soon-to-be-released Gphone will help with that a bit. Of course, we still need to add in the bicycle data.

Most if not all of BBBike is released under open-source licenses like GPL. You can download it and accompanying datasets in one or more forms here and here.

2 Comments to “BBBike Can Be Ported to Other Cities”

  1. Richard Fairhurst says:

    To mark cycling facilities on OpenStreetMap, you use two-part ‘tags’ - as with anything else on OSM. So to mark that a road has a cycle lane, you’d add the tag cycleway=lane.

    Do have a look at - a wonderful rendering of OSM data, pulling out all the cycle-centric information, updated weekly. You might even decide that campaigning for better directions on Google is less likely to be fruitful than improving OSM’s coverage. :)

  2. OpenStreetMap’s instructions on how to tag cycle routes:


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