Greater Greater Washington


Tell Arlington how to build a better bike map

Arlington's bike planners are designing a new bike map that will highlight the most comfortable routes, instead of focusing strictly on infrastructure. They want your help, to figure out the most important things to show on the map.

A portion of Arlington’s existing bike map.

Most bike maps focus on infrastructure, with separate symbols for things like bike lanes, cycletracks, and trails. But another school of thought suggests they should focus on rider comfort, putting more emphasis on mixed-traffic roads with slow-speed car traffic, and doing more to call out things like hills.

To help strike the right map balance and illustrate the right things, planners are asking bike riders in the region to take a short survey. The survey has 13 questions and should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 


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Problems I have with the preferred route info on bike maps

1. Im a far from fearless cyclist who will often look for bypasses on small residential streets. Such streets are usually indicated "white" IE "dangerous or not known" Now really its almost always because they are not known. But if they are dangerous or unsuitable, the map has not told me. Its really only useful for the larger streets, where white really does mean "unsuitable"

2. whats suitable or preferred depends on what kind of rider one is. The databased confident folks are more worried about getting doored than being hit from behind - so a fast road with no parking is better than a slower one with parking. For the interested but concerned that fast traffic is nervewracking, whatever the data say. Similarly, some of us have greater difficulty on hills than others. etc, etc

So I'd rather have the focus be on the infra. Some info on the suitability of the streets is fine, but not at the expense of showing infra. And yeah, it would be nice to have bike lanes shown differently from sharrows.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 4, 2013 12:35 pm • linkreport

@AWITC-I get the impression that this is what the survey is trying to tease out.

by thump on Sep 4, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport


yeah, but I wanted to A. clarify beyond the multiple choice questions in the survey and B. Open it up to GGW discussion.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 4, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

There's a beautiful cycling map for San Francisco that shows the color-coded grade of every single street in the city. It's great for route planning and really gives you a sense of the topography.

by Paul on Sep 4, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

The brand new Minnesota bike highway map has gotten unfavorable reviews.

by tour guide on Sep 4, 2013 7:55 pm • linkreport

While I am an advocate for bike infrastructure, my own tendencies lean VC...I feel that, as a fairly experienced and decently fast rider, I have more flexibility/control in a regular traffic lane than I do in a bike lane.

So when I'm looking at routes, I'm more concerned about finding slower, wider roads rather than just roads with bike I vote for a "comfort" map. At least until the state of bikes lanes is such that you can make most trips without having to use a street without one. As it is, there are so many gaps in the bike infrastructure, that it's nearly impossible to plan a route that's bike-lane-only. So showing "comfortable" routes is more useful, so you can see the best places to bridge the gaps in the bike lanes.

by MM on Sep 5, 2013 11:19 am • linkreport

There are ways to show infrastructure AND comfortableness without overly complicating the map, don't know why they're posing this as an either/or question.

by wphiii on Sep 5, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

Can someone explain to me how you can show the comfort level of a road a 5am and the comfort level of the same road at 5pm on the same printed map? Also, the two sides of the same road may have different issues.

by Mike on Sep 6, 2013 7:23 am • linkreport

Can someone explain to me how you can show the comfort level of a road a 5am and the comfort level of the same road at 5pm on the same printed map? Also, the two sides of the same road may have different issues.

If the route is only comfortable at certain times of the day then it shouldn't be designated on the map as a desirable route. You want the map to show those people unfamiliar with the biking situation where they can feel comfortable riding no matter when they go.

by MLD on Sep 6, 2013 8:25 am • linkreport

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