New Interactive Map Tool: Now You Can Share Your Most Loved/Hated Spots for Biking & Walking

We have all experienced that problem traffic spot while on our bikes commuting or running errands or just riding around. How often do you grumble because you don’t have a convenient way to point it out to someone interested in fixing it?

Well, now you do.

An interactive map for identifying problem spots for bicycle and foot traffic is available for public use as part of the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project. The project consultants from Toole Design Group have provided this Google-based WikiMap in order to collect information about where people ride and walk, where traffic infrastructure works well, and where our transportation system comes up short for those on bicycles or on foot.

I consider this easy-to-use WikiMap to be an outstanding tool to provide feedback on our network of roads and paths used for biking and walking.

While there is no guarantee that the problem spot you highlight will get put on the high priority fix-it list, your entries along with everyone else’s will get noticed. And if enough people identify the same problem spot, then it will eventually get the attention – and hopefully some action – from someone in a position do something about it.

The Bike/Ped Plan WikiMap can be accessed from the Portage County Bike/Ped Plan webpage – scroll down to the January 16 “Where do you walk & ride?” post and you’ll see it there. Click on the picture of the map to go to the WikiMap itself.

When the map comes up, click on the “register” link in the window that appears. You’ll enter an e-mail that will be your login ID, as well as a few other pieces of info. In less than a minute, you’ll be able to access the WikiMap.

The WikiMap is based on Google Maps. You can zoom and pan in the usual Google Map fashion. All of Portage County can be accessed. (Actually, the entire planet can be accessed, but this bike/ped plan project is only for Portage County.) The Portage County border appears on the WikiMap for convenience.

On the top menu bar, the About menu contains several useful items to get you oriented. Instructions will launch a 2-minute video explaining how to use the WikiMap. Legend will show what the Route colors and Point icons represent – you will be adding Routes and Points to the WikiMap. View Options will let you adjust your current WikiMap display by turning on and off various types of Routes and Points.

Among the View Options choices is the option to either show or hide the Routes and Points that all other users have entered onto the WikiMap. If you want to enter a bunch of information onto the map, it might be easier to hide other users’ data to reduce some clutter. But if you would rather add comments to existing Routes and Points, then turn other users’ data on, click on any Route or Point, and type away in the window that appears.

To add your own, the Routes and Points choices on the top menu bar each bring up a window to select the type of Route or Point you want to add. Make your choice and then add it to the map. For a Route, single-click at the Route start, single-click at any turn or bend, and finally double-click at the Route end. For a Point, merely click where you want the Point to be placed.

After placing your Route or Point, a window will appear where you can enter a comment. As appropriate, identify any landmarks and mention whether this Route or Point is really wonderful or terrible or whatever for bicycling or walking. Make a suggestion of how you would like it to be different. Say whatever it is you want to say. I found that there seems to be a limit of about 250 characters per comment – plenty to get your point across. Once you click Save, your commented Route or Point will be part of the database and visible to other WikiMap users.

There are more features to the WikiMap for those with GPS technology. But the items I describe here are the basics to get you going. You’ll find it pretty easy to use after the first couple of Routes and Points you enter.

You are encouraged to add all the Routes and Points you desire in order to express what does and does not work for you as you bike and/or walk in the urban and/or rural areas of Portage County.

At the recent Steering Committee meeting for the Portage County Bike/Ped Plan, I was told that the WikiMap will be available until around early- to mid-summer. At that point, the Portage County Bike/Ped Plan Project will need to start processing the WikiMap data. You can start adding to the WikiMap today and continue adding Routes and Points as the weather turns warmer.

The project consultants indicated that they are looking for feedback from each WikiMap user. If you access the WikiMap and see that someone else has already added your Route or Point, it is important for you either to add a comment onto that Route or Point or else to hide everyone else’s data and enter a fresh version of your Route or Point with your comment. Repeated identification by many users is an important statistic for project staff in their analysis of the WikiMap.

So have fun while providing valuable feedback with the WikiMap. I hope you decide to start entering Routes and Points right away. To get to the WikiMap, you can go straight to the bike/ped plan blog post about it here.

Disclosure: Bob Fisch, Chief Bike Fun Officer of Poky Pedaling Stevens Point, is a member of the Urban Steering Committee for the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project. Posts about this project appearing on the PPSP website are part of a broader PPSP effort to keep readers informed of bikey news in our area. Nothing posted on the PPSP website should be considered to be official communication from the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project. The official website for this project can be accessed at http://portagecobikepedplan.wordpress.com.

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