I’m leading a Transition Town project to bring Legible London to Crystal Palace. You’ll have noticed these signs around central London, conspicuously absent across most of the rest of the capital: At the local Transition Town AGM, somebody suggested we should try to bring these to Crystal Palace. But why wait on TfL? Using OpenStreetMap and TileMill, we can try to produce our own similar map style and stick them up ourselves! Here is my prototype for the wide area map: You’ll notice dark blue lines along the edges of roads and though the park. Those are pavements and footpaths, and indicate where you can walk. Here’s a prototype for the more detailed map of the local area, with local points of interest, pedestrian crossings and bus stops: You’ll notice that some roads don’t show any pavements. Eagle-eyed locals may also spot missing cut-throughs and wonder about missing points of…

Read More Bringing pedestrian maps to Crystal Palace

One of the odd things about contributing to OpenStreetMap is that you have no idea who is using the maps and the data. You spend hours, weeks, months, years even building up a wonderfully comprehensive database of geographic features in the area, all because it’s fun, because you believe in the project’s ideals or you need the data for your own project. But does anyone else use it? It would be depressing if the answer was “no”. So I get cheered every time I see documents like this: That’s an excerpt from a presentation by Southwark Living Streets. They took the Mayor of London’s transport advisor around Elephant & Castle to show how unfriendly and dangerous the area is for pedestrians, and illustrated the whole thing with OpenStreetMap. The chap who made this loves OSM, he told me he realised how useful it could be when he noticed we had…

Read More Mapping for pedestrians

While we’re benefiting from all this rain in London, which keeps air pollution at bay, I’ve been wondering about including pollution data in OpenStreetMap-based routing engines. The trouble is that I lack the technical skills to implement this, so I’m writing this post in the hope that somebody might be inspired to give it a go. Air pollution is the second biggest cause of premature deaths in the UK after smoking. Here’s a little league table of nasties taken from Department of Health data: Smoking – 87,000 premature deaths per year Air pollution – 29,000 Alcohol – 22,000 Obesity – 9,000 The main pollutants in cities are particulates (PM10, PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitrogen oxide (NO). Unlike the pea souper fogs of years gone by, these are invisible to the human eye but very deadly. They’re most concentrated on busy congested roads and around airports – so unsurprisingly in central London,…

Read More Routing around pollution – any help?

Those who are inclined to compromise can never make a revolution – Kemal Ataturk Every day I set off on my bike for a pleasant three mile commute to work. I love cycling around London, it’s cheap and fun, and I particularly enjoy the spring when lots of “fair weather cyclists” swell our ranks along cycle routes. Much of London is crap to cycle around, but politicians of all colours claim to support a “cycling revolution”. To achieve that, you’d need to make people from all walks of life feel safe – the number one barrier – and make cycling seem pleasant. Southwark Council did an audit of their roads recently and found that it was impossible to get further than a few hundred metres without using a road requiring “advanced” cycling skills. You need to be happy using “busy roads” with “complex junctions and road features” to cycle to…

Read More Southwark’s cycling revolution

A mere eighteen months after it had been given to us, Rachel and I went on our Trip Stylist day out around the City of London, “exploring hidden corners and treasures“. We started out with brunch in a very nice little café tucked so well away that it made me wonder how anyone could find it without a tip. It was a very chilly morning, so a warm start was just what we needed. Rachel had mushrooms and a poached egg on soda toast, I tucked into a savoury pancake mountain. We set off on full stomachs along narrow streets and past a few recommended parks in nooks and plaques in crannies to the Museum of London. I’ve cycled and walked past it innumerable times, that odd bunker in the middle of a roundabout, but never entered before. The exhibition design isn’t all that easy to follow, but it took…

Read More Trip Stylist review: stroll around the City

I was contacted recently by a parent campaigning for a local school to ensure its admissions policy is properly applied. Over-subscribed schools like this one are a common source of frustration and worry up and down the country. Here’s the rub. Which of these two homes would you say is closer to the school, and therefore more likely to secure a place?  By the way, I’m not sure that the location on the left actually is within the catchment area, it’s just a place I randomly chose to illustrate the coming point… Parents at the location on the right were told they were too far from the school. The method they use to calculate safe distances to the school actually suggests that the location on the right is farther away than the location on the left! Why? Because they are calculating distances using a model that measures the distance as if you are…

Read More Why map data sometimes matters

One of the annoying things about open data is that you often need ninja skills to do anything with it. OpenStreetMap contains a wealth of geodata, but most tools make you jump through several steps involving the command line and all manner of data wrangling just to produce a custom map. Maperitive tries to make it much easier to create nice looking maps. It has been in gestation since late 2007, and is now close to being easy to use. It took me about half an hour of playing around to produce my first nice hiking map of Snowdon, although a problem with NASA’s elevation data led me on a frustrating journey to get Ordnance Survey open data in there to fill the gaps. I also had to work out Maperitive’s settings file for the way features are drawn to make the maps look a little neater and, well, British.…

Read More Making open data maps the almost-easy way

I’ve started trying to add speed limits data to roads in my patch of Southwark. Two things made me start looking at them… First, I go everywhere by bicycle, which means speed limits and London congestion are of very little relevance to my journey times. But I noticed that journey planners like CloudMade’s offer wildly optimistic journey times for cars. Even ignoring congestion, I thought, they can’t be taking account of speed limits, which across London are lower than the national assumptions. For example, most main roads have a 30 mph speed limit and a growing number of roads, residential and main, have a safer 20 mph limit. The second reason is that speed limits have been a big issue for cyclists recently, featuring in campaigns around issues like Blackfriars Bridge and Southwark’s Transport Strategy. So here’s a snapshot of our data around Peckham and East Dulwich after a few…

Read More Getting speed limits into OpenStreetMap