Joined up thinking – Parker’s cycling map

I’m very impressed with this map. The brain child of Simon Parker, a fomer student and mini-cab driver, the London cycling map attempts to do for cycling what the London underground map does for the tube; tame its complexity and make it simpler.

Working on the premise that the London cycle network falls victim to its own complexity – lacking a more holistic approach to cycle transit – the map recognises the system’s inherent interconnectedness* and uses a colour coded system to bind directional routes together.

Parker’s idea of colour coding the maps according to an adapted compass orientation (5 axis rather than 4) is a rather good one. It has the advantage of always offering the cycling routes in relatively straight lines (in common with Henry Beck’s Tube map) and pulls together several existing cycle tracks to form one single directional unit. This dispenses with the fine detail that can serve to confuse (in other words, forget hopping from one path to another, follow red and go West young man…) enabling the cyclist to focus on colour rather than route number(s). Very beneficial to those with memory issues like me**. The short film below, articulates – and advocates – its use quite well.

Aside from the relatively minor issues of available volunteers and mapping expertise, I see no reason as to why this type of approach couldn’t benefit other cities. A lack of official cycle routes need not be a limiting factor; local knowledge can fill in the gaps and identify quieter streets, roads and parks. Perhaps over time, unofficial routes will get official recognition.

More details about the London cycle map campaign can be found here.

*As fans of the Dirk Gently books will know, interconnectedness is a very satisfying word***.

**I can barely remember what I had for lunch.

***Well I like it anyway.


4 replies »

  1. Simon, I was reading something the other day that nicely described cyclists as the natural pythagoreans of transportation – always seeking the hypothenuse to shorten the journey. The tube map works by swapping the idea of efficiency of distance travelled for network connectivity instead. Whilst I have always loved the idea of this map, and the graphic employed, is it the right approach for the cyclist, for the kings of the short cut? It might be that I just don’t understand how it works. Perhaps we should draw one for Cardiff and test it out.

    • I love that notion. I think it’s time we made a t-shirt – ‘Natural born Pythagorean’. Leave it with me…..

      Matt Williams (@sprinklecone) is also keen on the idea of a Cardiff map and we’ve started chatting about it. Would you like to join in the discussion? The more minds the better! We were thinking along the lines of a tube style map but using cycle friendly streets and existing paths. It may need two levels though; overview (the tube type map) and detail (the Pythagorean reality). What do you think?

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