Google’s My Maps feature came out just about the time the project started, and I used a similar tool to prepare the first draft of recommend bike routes. At the time, there wasn’t the feature for multiple people to edit the same map, but they’ve since added that feature to Google MyMaps. I recommend Google’s My Maps for collaboratively creating and sharing drafts of bike routes.
“My Maps” also offers the feature to add photos to the map. So, if someone has a question about a particular stretch of road, they can click on the photo and see an example of it, assuming I had taken a photo there and uploaded it. The need for using that feature has somewhat been eclipsed by Google StreetView where it is available.
After getting some feedback from other riders, I was prepared to initially present the idea to the City to get the city’s initial response to the concept. At this point, my question for the city would be: “If I worked with experienced cyclists to develop a final draft of recommended bike routes, would the City consider approving the network as an official network of recommended bike routes?”. I was clear that the simply approving the network could be the first phase of the project. Working out funding for maps and signs could come later. By separating out the funding issues, our cash-strapped city would have an easier time approving the project.
A person representing a group is more likely to get the attention of the city than person speaking out of their own personal interest. That was one motivition to start “Bike Richmond”. I also wanted to provide a transportation focus to compliment an existing bike group in town which focused on recreational riding. Involving other experienced cyclists would also provide great feedback on a bike routes, and set the foundation for organizing events.
However, I didn’t want the overhead of setting up a real non-profit legal entity, having a board of directors or regular monthly meetings. Instead, I created a free Google Group and bought the bikerichmond.org domain and redirected it the google group. The domain costs about $15/year, and a Google Group takes just a few minutes to set up.
Since Google Groups provides a membership count for the group, we had an official group count that I could refer to, and I could generally then say that I now represented “Bike Richmond”. Many details were discussed on the list and we generally closed with a consensus about direction.
To further help make the lightweight organization “official”, I designed a simple business card for the organization (download the compressed PDF) using the free gLabels program Since it just mentioned the website address without a specific name on them, any group member was able to take some and distribute them if they’d like.
The simple promotion helped get the name out and grow the organization.
In 2008, Richmond, Indiana had maps printed for a network of recommended bike route map developed by experienced cyclists. The city government endorsed and supported the project but was unable to fund it.
You can preview the front and back of the 17×22 map online.
Over the next several posts I’ll detail how I led that effort. I hope that by sharing may experience in this project it may guide other motivated citizens who would like official bike routes in their towns, but don’t want to wait until their cities have both the time and the money to produce them on their own.
If there’s a quick summary to process, it’s this: Anyone is welcome to design and print a map, and it is experienced cyclists, not city bureaucrats, who are most qualified to determine what recommended bike routes should be.