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Cycling site to expand statewide

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS
  • Star Tribune
  • September 21, 2011 - 9:02 AM

The website that gives bicyclists personalized routes from one end of the Twin Cities to another -- noting bike lanes, busy streets and even potholes along the way -- is set to expand to the rest of the state.

Cyclopath.org was created and maintained by computer scientists at the University of Minnesota. But much of the site's value comes from cyclists themselves. That's because it's a "geowiki" -- an interactive map that's edited by bikers who know the roads.

It's free and handy. A cyclist can enter an endpoint, what kind of conditions they'd like to see on the way, and Cyclopath will suggest the best route.

But it also serves a research purpose. The folks at the U use it to experiment with and evaluate user-generated content.

"One of the big research issues is: How do you get people to do the necessary work for a user-generated content system?" said Prof. Loren Terveen, Cylopath's co-founder. "How do you direct them to the work that most needs to be done?"

Since its launch in 2008, Cyclopath has relied on a core group of active editors to refine routes. Of about 2,500 registered users, maybe 15 to 40 edit often, noting narrow shoulders, flagging unpaved spots and fixing phantom intersections that don't actually exist.

Many bikers say that makes Cyclopath better than Google Maps, which also does bike routes. But while Cyclopath serves up personalized routes, "Google Maps gives everyone the same one," Terveen said.

Thanks to $130,000 in state and federal grants, Cyclopath will begin to expand statewide starting in January. The U researchers will work with the Minnesota Department of Transportation -- as they have done before -- to establish the map's foundation off which users will build.

Are there enough outstate bikers to create the same critical mass needed for the site?

"It's an open issue how well we're going to succeed," Terveen said. "I'm hopeful we'll attract enough interest from local cyclists throughout the state."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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