The Minnesota Department of Transportation is trying to amp up outstate bike options, unveiling this week the expansion of an interactive bicycle map that allows riders to plan an advanced route in real time and edit the information.
MnDOT noticed a large demand for the map tool, called Cyclopath, and decided to launch it statewide after its success in Minneapolis — voted the No. 1 biking city in America last year.
MnDOT receives many calls from bicyclists en route from one city to another, requesting the fastest way to get there, said planning coordinator Jasna Hadzic.
“A print map goes out of date as soon as it’s printed,” Hadzic said. “So this is going to be a more efficient and better way for cyclists to have data that’s more accurate and up to date.”
Last summer, MnDOT updated its state bicycle map for the first time since 2001 and added electronic maps to its website. This week it granted access to residents outside the seven-county metro area for the first time. Riders can access Cyclopath via Web and Android app.
Jeff Robertson, a director of the Rochester Sports Club, said road and mountain bike riders in his group typically use a GPS to preplan their course and then post it to their website.
While he hasn’t tried Cyclopath yet, Robertson said a simple tool like this could save cyclists time and worry.
Nice Ride, a public bike-sharing program in the Twin Cities, continues to print about 4,000 paper maps each year showing residents where bike stations are located. Cyclopath is the type of resource the business hoped would be developed, said Nice Ride’s marketing director, Anthony Ongaro. It will provide a sense of security for a group of people he describes as “concerned but interested” — those who want to ride bicycles but may choose not to because they aren’t sure what streets are safe.
“It will make them more confident that they’re going on the right streets,” Ongaro said.
The interactive map includes both bike trails and roads, which users can mark as bike friendly if there’s a wider shoulder or a protected bike lane. Riders can also create a route based on their personal preferences: shortest distance, fastest, only trails, etc.
So far, the community response to Cyclopath has been overwhelmingly positive, Hadzic said. When the map was restricted to the metro area, about 100 users created routes per day, she said, while that number has jumped to 250 since its statewide launch.
Nice Ride extended its bike-sharing program to Bemidji last month to test out its effect on a smaller community.
Bemidji had existing biking infrastructure and recreational interest, and about half of all two-car households there drove less than 2 miles to work, said Ongaro.
Its pilot program might encourage Bemidji residents to save some money and commute on two wheels instead of four, he said. And digital mapping tools make it even easier to make the switch.
But Cyclopath’s success is dependent on riders’ participation, Hadzic said. Users have to edit the data, as well as create routes, in order to fill in gaps in greater Minnesota. Then MnDOT can expand its inventory of shoulder conditions, bike lane and facility data.
“That will eventually help inform how we prioritize future investment and where people are biking,” Hadzic said.
To find a route, go to http://cyclopath.org/