Latest new features – Summer 2017

Lots of new smaller features have gone live in recent months:

Thumbs up: You can now thumb-up (or 'like') a posting. It's a useful and quick way of showing approval to what someone else has written. You can hover your mouse over the thumb and see who has liked it. Thumbs-up is also installed on each issue - replacing the old voting system.

Hashtags to link posts together: You can link disparate messages from around the site together by using hashtags. This works in basically the same way to other sites like Facebook. Just prefix a word with a hash sign (#) and it will turn into a link to a page showing all the other messages containing that hashtag. This is specific to each group. So, for instance, members of Placeford Cycling Campaign could mark items that could go into their newsletter just by writing #newsletter in a post. There's also an index of all hashtags for each group.

Planning applications: Thanks to PlanIt, with whom we have been working, planning applications from some 78% of councils around the country are now coming through to Cyclescape, via your My Cyclescape page. This gives you easy access to development proposals in your areas, usually within a few days of them being posted on your council's website. If you know about an existing development, you can now paste its number into the search box to get to it quickly.

Revamp for setting locations you're interested in: We've completely reworked the way you specify what areas you're interested in. Now you can type in an area, e.g. your local council ward, and the system will come up with a set of suggested areas you might like to follow. This means you don't have to know how to read a map (and then draw on it) to set it - now you can search by name. We've got groups, constituencies and wards all loaded. You can also plan a cycle journey to get an A-B route you want to monitor, e.g. so that you get told about issues along your way to work that other people have reported. The new interface also show you how many issues the areas you've selected would match - so you know whether you'll get more than you can handle. We'll have a blog post about this soon, and will be making further improvements to it, as there are some rough edges still.

You can see the full list of changes (available via the 'What's new' link at the bottom of all pages of the site).

Now that we've got these in place, we'll be starting soon (subject to funding) on a long-awaited major revamp of the layout of the site, moving things around to make everything much clearer, as we know that new users are still confused by how to subscribe to things.

Polden-Puckham Charitable FoundationThis work has been possible kindly thanks to grant support from the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation. Thanks also to Nikolai and other contributors who have made these improvements possible.

Developer API

This is a techie blog post, for the information of developers. If you're an ordinary user, you'll probably want to skip this post!

Cyclescape now has a fledgling developer API is now available.

Basically, this enables data in Cyclescape (public information - no personal data is involved) to be used in external systems, making it more useful.

Currently available API calls, as described in the documentation, are:

  • Issues - what problems exist, and when were they reported?
  • Groups - cycling groups around the country and their geographical areas
  • Tags - what are the themes of problems that people are talking about?

Here are the first two integrations, by way of example:

London Cycling Campaign's consultation map

London Cycling Campaign are using this to create a map of current consultations in London, thanks to work by Camden Cyclists.

You can create a similar map using the code for the map, which is open source.

Bikedata

CycleStreets (who run Cyclescape) has been working on a new website, Bikedata.

The Bikedata site aims to provide cycle campaigners around the UK with a ‘one-stop shop’ for data that helps them in their work. You can read more about the Bikedata site.

We've used the API to pass through reported issues on Cyclescape to Bikedata.

We've also added a layer showing all groups.

API documentation

Documentation of the API is available at:
https://www.cyclescape.org/api

Geographical data is GeoJSON, making it easy to add to a Leaflet or other map.

Usage policy

We don't currently have an API usage policy, but for now, we would expect users to adhere to standard principles:

  • Avoid excessive volumes of requests to the server;
  • Limit the geographical size to only what is needed;
  • Ensure you give attribution;
  • Link back to the site, rather than copying material which will then go out of date.

Future developments

We expect that more API calls will be added in future. Let us know if you have any particular requests for the API.

Polden-Puckham Charitable FoundationThis work has been possible kindly thanks to grant support from the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation. Thanks also to Nikolai and other contributors who have made these improvements possible.

Latest new features – Spring 2017

Here are the improvements we've been working on lately, all live. We've been focussed on quick wins to make using the site easier - but we know there is still some way to go.

Unread postings now coloured differently: All around the site, unread postings are marked in blue in discussion threads you haven't yet read. This should make it much easier to keep track of things!

Front page - My Cyclescape: We've at long last cleaned up your My Cyclescape page, getting rid of pointless boxes and giving it a spring clean. Also, the limit of 12 messages before has gone - you can now click through to the next page of updates. So if you haven't been to the site for a while, you can be sure not to miss anything.

Layout improvements: To save you having to scroll back to the top of a page, we've set the top bar to stay in place all the time now. Also, there's a link in the bottom corner to the top of the page. Another little fix has been to make the list of subscribers to a discussion clearer - people are now listed in a sensible alphabetical order at last.

E-mail improvements: You can now unsubscribe from a discussion thread on a topic in one click - before this involved remembering to click the unsubscribe button. For digest users, the e-mails now include a link to the original of each individual message. Also, members of a committee getting committee-only e-mails will see this more clearly marked now.

Direct messaging: The top bar now has an 'envelope' icon, giving you access to direct messages. It'll show you how many unread messages there are, to help you avoid missing any.

Closing a thread: To help keep the site clean, you can close a thread using the button at the end of the discussion. This can now be done at any time - previously there was an arbitrary 2-day wait which we've now removed. People can re-open threads just by posting again, but by closing old threads, searches and other listings will work better.

Issues can now have more than one location: You can now report an issue that has a set of locations. For instance, supposing the council is consulting on making a set of one-way streets to way for cycling. Previously, this was hard to represent - it meant either drawing a large box or a convoluted area. Now you can draw a line for each street when creating the area. The same multiple area system also applies to groups and library items.

    Improvements for groups: There's now a group finder on the front page. It's now also possible to request to create a new group online. Also, committee members are now automatically subscribed to administrative discussion threads.

    Potential members list: The membership secretary of a group can now paste in their membership list (as a list of e-mails), so when a user signs up they are automatically added to the group if their email matches one in the potential members list. This system is fully privacy compliant, as we don't store the e-mails of potential members - just an alphanumeric code representation of each e-mail.

    You can see the full list of changes (available via the 'What's new' link at the bottom of all pages of the site).

    Polden-Puckham Charitable FoundationThis work has been possible kindly thanks to grant support from the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation. Thanks also to Nikolai and other contributors who have made these improvements possible.

    What’s the Cyclescape of your city like?

    We’re pleased to announce the name of our new cycle campaign group toolkit:

    Cyclescape

    We had over 70 suggestions (including some humorous ones), many of which were excellent ideas.

    It became clear that many of the best ideas started with Cycle, and we liked the idea that the name would be co-branded with CycleStreets, i.e. Cycle-s-something.

    We also thought it was particularly important to emphasise the geographical aspect of cycle campaigning. We thought that inventing a new word, Cyclescape would be a catchy and unique brand that emphasises the idea of improving the landscape for cycling across our towns and cities.

    Having fixed on a shortlist, we began the process of trying to obtain domain names. This took a surprising amount of work as we wanted to ensure we got all the variants (.com/.net/.org) by way of brand protection.

    Unlike three years ago when we bought the name CycleStreets, many Cycle+ names have now been taken and reserved by domain brokers. After approaching some domain holders, it was clear that some of the best names were going to be prohibitively expensive, in the thousands of pounds, which was well beyond an already-tight budget.

    In the end we spent more than we wanted to acquiring the name, but we’re very pleased with it. We hope you like the name too!

    Cyclescape.net is currently under development and we’ll be setting up a blog there shortly. @Cyclescape will also be the site’s Twitter identity, so do follow that also.

    Andy and Andrew, our developers, have been making excellent progress. Many of the core concepts of the site are in place, so we’ll have screenshots of  the system at ‘alpha’ phase in the next few days. If you’re a coder, follow the code work in progress on Github.

    Now we need a logo…

    Now we need a logo! We like the idea of a curved section of city, with markers on and a bicycle going upwards. Anyone able to help with that?

    Cycle campaign toolkit: introducing our developer team

    GeoVation

    Progress on our cycle campaigner toolkit is steaming (pedalling?) ahead! Coding work began on Monday, and will continue solidly for the next few months.

    The development of the toolkit has been possible thanks to our GeoVation award, which secured us £27,000 of funding. GeoVation is an Ordnance Survey initiative and forms part of the Ideas in Transit project with funding from the Technology Strategy Board and the Department for Transport.

    We're pleased to introduce our developer team, Andy Allan, Andrew France, plus myself (Martin Lucas-Smith) from CycleStreets as project manager. Andy and Andrew will be working in it on solidly for the next few months so that a large amount of development can be done.

    We're also approaching various designers and design companies for the work on the design and information architecture aspects of the project.

    Andy Allan is a freelance developer and cartographer, specialising in all things related to OpenStreetMap. He is the creator of opencyclemap.org, the award-winning map for cyclists used by hundreds of websites and mobile applications, along with his recently developed transport map. He has helped develop the technology that powers OpenStreetMap including the online editor, Potlatch2, and is a member of the OSMF Operations Working Group. Andy lives and works in London but prefers cycling elsewhere.

    Andrew France is an experienced web application developer specialising in Ruby on Rails. A generalist by nature, he is just as happy designing intuitive front-end interfaces and writing JavaScript as he is constructing database schema. Andrew has worked on a variety of systems from charity sites to hazardous chemicals management and always looks forward to implementing new ideas. He is a keen traveller, cyclist, runner, and imbiber of ale.

    Martin Lucas-Smith is one of the two lead developers of CycleStreets. He'll be project-managing the toolkit project and getting involved in the Rails coding in the latter half of the project. For CycleStreets, Martin tends to deal with non-routing code and structure of the CycleStreets codebase; he also deals with most of the CycleStreets project management so that fellow developer Simon can concentrate on the complex routing work. Martin's actual job is as a Web Developer at the Department of Geography , University of Cambridge.

    Get involved in an exciting open source project!

    The toolkit is to be developed as an open source project, with the code on Github. It will be written using the technologies of Ruby on Rails (v3.1), PostgreSQL, and jQuery.

    Volunteers are needed to contribute to the code from the end of October. If you'd be interested, do let us know.

    We're aiming to build a project team who will develop and look after the system from December onwards. By that stage, the grant-funded development work will mean that the system is already fully-featured and well coded so should be in a good state to add functionality to.

    Timeline

    We'll have:

    • Screenshots of our 'alpha' available by 21st October.
    • A beta available to a few campaign groups around Christmas. If your group would like to be a 'guinea-pig', do let us know! We'll start to open it up to more groups in the month following.
    • General availability of the site after a period of bugfixing, scaling and iteration.

    Stay tuned to this blog and our Twitter feed for updates.

    We're also seeking an additional grant of around £10k to enable us to undertake solid coding on some of the more advanced features that groups have suggested, particularly do deal with more complex issues like cross-group sharing, which will increase the utility of the system considerably.

    Designing the toolkit

    We held our first developer meetings this week to develop the specification further and do some wireframing:

       

       

    Cycle campaign toolkit – spec

    We're pleased to publish an updated specification for the campaigner toolkit, following consultation with groups and including further changes.

    There's been lots of useful feedback submitted by e-mail, twitter, blog replies, and in meetings we've had. These comments were turned into about ten pages of bullet-points (165 points!) for working into the spec.

    Many of the points raised were useful points for clarification, or small new features, and a few raised issues relating to group structure. There were no problems raised with the substantive direction and nature of the toolkit.

    The Description of the toolkit and what it will do is still available and has not needed to be updated. However, the full detailed functional specification has been updated and is below.

    We were delighted to receive various positive comments which very much reflect our hopes for the system. For instance:

    "One great advantage I can see is that it'll potentially help balance out the workload within our cycle campaign by allowing the latest status on any particular issue to always be seen on the system. Getting more campaign member involvement will also help with our committee's workload."

    "I like the push/pull options of mail list and forum. Can't think of anything you've missed. I'm hopeful that this will encourage common issues to do with rules or conventions to float to the top and be tackled at source."

    Things that have been updated or added in the spec, as a result of the consultation are:

    • Clarification of the idea of a 'Library' of best practice
    • Presence of tips to help best practice in campaigning
    • Specification of the polls and petitions components
    • Issues relating to federated/overlapping groups
    • Committee privacy basis
    • Notion of groups having democratically-agreed policy stances that members must adhere to
    • Clarifications about grouping and splitting of threads
    • Ability to involve elected Councillors rather than just officers
    • Tightening of a few areas regarding mail integration
    • Emphasis on outcomes rather than endless discussion
    • Notion of cross-member 'recommended campaign' topics
    • Daily digest
    • Removal of the notion of a compromise objective, which could undermine a group's negotiating position
    • Addition of avoidance of uploading very large volumes of documents, which could create costs
    • And various other minor changes

    The latest version of the specification is available. It is now a living document that incorporates updates in the light of implementation as we move into the coding/design phase.

    A draft Module structure (work in progress) which describes an implementation of the functional specification, is being finalised. This will form the basis of the developers' work.

    We need a name for our campaigning toolkit!

    Since we won £27,000 for the development of our campaigning toolkit we've been pondering what to call it.

    The themes we want to capture in the name are:

    • The idea of a central place where cycle users around the UK can submit problems they encounter on the street network
    • A central place to facilitate campaigning
    • Cycling (!)
    • Collaborative
    • Well-informed campaigning
    • Constructive and forceful debate but without being adversarial
    • Improving our streets and routes
    • Keeping track of all the problems and being able to manage them effectively
    • The ability to say "I'll report it on the … website" and write "Go to … to report/fix a problem"
    • Name needs to be short and catchy - long names are harder to type in

    Here are some initial ideas we've had, though not all are usable names - it was just a brainstorm. We're not really happy with any of them. Can you help suggest a catchy name? Leave a comment below or drop us a line.

    • Helping campaigners campaign …
    • BetterBiking
    • CycleStars
    • CityRevolution
    • CyclingSorted
    • CycleTrac
    • CycleTicks
    • Complain.com
    • Cyclocracy
    • Cyclington
    • HelpThem2HelpUs
    • CyclingUpTheAgenda
    • CycleTherapy
    • CycleTraction
    • CycleActive
    • CycleActivist
    • Cyclamity
    • CycleUnison
    • CyclingIntelligence
    • CycleLand
    • PeletonPeople
    • CyclingBestPractice
    • PracticalPeople
    • CycleMyths
    • CycleBugs
    • CycleLeague
    • CycleLeaders
    • RideLeader
    • BikePatch
    • BikeFettling
    • BikePatch
    • Agenda4Change
    • PathRoute
    • RidePatch
    • PatchNetwork
    • PathStreets
    • StreetPatch
    • StreetStrategy
    • Strategy4Streets
    • StreetFocus
    • RouteStrategy
    • RouteToCommute
    • RouteShare
    • StreetLever
    • CrowdedStreets
    • CrowdedOut
    • StreetCrowd
    • StreetVision
    • CycleTool
    • ToolForStreets
    • StreetsAhead
    • FeasibleAndDesirable
    • Note>Log>Act
    • StreetsShared
    • OnRampForCampaigners
    • Vent
    • CyclingSoldiers
    • CycleMission
    • CrowdsourcingCyclingIssues
    • CycleLinks
    • Collaborate

    Cycle campaign toolkit – comments sought

    As we announced recently, CycleStreets is one of the winners of the GeoVation contest, with our bid for a comprehensive online campaigning toolkit to assist cycle campaign groups around the UK.

    The first phase of this project is finalising a specification for the toolkit. Here is the description of what it will do. This outlines what the toolkit will do, how people and groups will be able to use it. The full specification also has a prioritisation of these features.

    We warmly welcome comments from groups around the UK on this draft, and will be publishing a further more finalised draft, incorporating comments received, in a week's time for our deadline of 24th July. Please do contact us to give us your views.

    We've tried to include as many of the ideas we've received and come up with as possible. We hope the attached draft will give cycling groups an idea of how much the toolkit will assist their work.

    We hope also its themes of bringing campaigners together and, where possible, involving Local Authority contacts will help usher in a collective spirit of work to improve cycling conditions around the UK.

    Let us know your thoughts.

    Older versions:

    CycleStreets campaigner toolkit bid wins GeoVation contest!

    We're pleased to announce that our bid, for a comprehensive online campaigning toolkit to assist cycle campaign groups around the UK, is a winner in the GeoVation contest!

    It brings £27,000 for the development of a toolkit which, in the words of one supporter, should be "a hugely important step forward for all cycle campaigning groups".

    Turning problem reports into implemented solutions

    Our bid was one of 155 ideas submitted to the GeoVation challenge, on the theme of "How can we improve transport in Britain?". Our bid was shortlisted, and we attended the GeoVation Camp in March to help develop the proposal amongst a total of 30 ideas invited. We were one of the final ten proposals, and took part in a Dragon's Den -style pitch on Wednesday.

    We were delighted to be picked as one of the winners who share the £150k pot of funding.

       

    Photos by Ordnance Survey, licenced CC BY-NC 2.0

    Martin Lucas-Smith, who presented the bid alongside CycleStreets' routemaster, Simon Nuttall, said:

    "We were delighted to be picked by the Ordnance Survey's judges as one of the winners. The £27,000 of funding will enable us to get this much-needed project off the ground.

    "As a member of one of the many local cycle campaign groups who will benefit, I'm all too aware of the large number of issues on the street network that need improvement, and the difficulty of managing this deluge of problems.

    "The new system will help campaigners around the country convert these problem reports into prioritised, well-evidenced solution proposals. It should help them work more productively with local councils to see changes implemented."

    We'd like to thank all the groups who provided quotes of support for our bid, including the CTC, Cyclenation, London Cycling Campaign, and a variety of groups around the country. We're working to provide you with a really great, useful and user-friendly system that will save a lot of time and effort.

    Some of the things the new system will be able to do are:

    • Enable members of the public and campaigners easily to pinpoint where cycling is difficult
    • Help groups prioritise what to work on
    • Pull in planning application data automatically, so that potential issues needing attention are readily accessible
    • Automatically notify and involve people who cycle through an area - who therefore have an interest in seeing issues fixed
    • Make geographical data such as collision data and accessibility analysis easily available, to provide context
    • Enable simpler and more focussed discussion based on specific issues, groups of issues, or themes
    • Enable best practice to be 'pulled-in' to discussions, by providing off-the-shelf examples shared from elsewhere in the UK
    • Enable groups to include LA contacts in these discussions if they wish
    • Enable groups to assemble 'solution' resources so that problems can be resolved on the ground
    • Give groups a variety of ways of publishing their activity on their website easily.

    GeoVation is run by the Ordnance Survey, and uses funding from the Technology Strategy Board and Ideas In Transit, and the Department for Transport. It runs challenges to address specific needs within communities, which may be satisfied in part through the use of geography.

    We'll have more details soon about the next steps. As the plans develop, we'll be issuing calls for comments from groups in the cycling community, before we start with any coding.

    We're delighted also that MySociety's strong bid for a mobile version of their forthcoming FixMyTransport was another winner - congratulations to them!