Filtering planning applications

We recently added a feature where planning applications in your area are automatically pulled into Cyclescape, so that new developments which affect cyclists can be turned into issues easily.

We knew this would need some tuning, and a common request has been to filter out tree works, advertisement applications, and similar applications that are almost never of relevance to cycling.

So we've added a feature to filter out planning applications on an area-by-area basis.

For instance, in this listing, the first application is useful and has been converted to an issue, but the second issue is a tree works application and so ideally shouldn't have appeared in the list at all. So ideally we should aim to filter out this type of application for the area listed:

Planning filtering

For instance, in Cambridge all the tree works applications like 13/046/TTCA end in /TTCA , so we've added that as a filter.

Because each Local Authority area has its own web-based planning application system (though some use the same backend), the filters currently have to be defined as patterns to exclude.

Please look through the applications and see if you can spot the patterns for your area, and let us know via the feedback link at the top of any Cyclescape page.

(We plan to make this directly editable by groups directly soon.)

More features in place

Work is continuing apace with Cyclescape, with more features now in place as we work up to a wider release.

There are still quite a number of unfinished areas, but we're getting there. Andrew and (most recently) Andy have been busy adding more in place for us.

  • Deadline setting
  • Collision data
  • Per-thread attachments
  • Committee-only privacy setting
  • Popular issues

Read about these below:

Deadline setting:

Deadlines (or other dates) can now be set.

Our experience of cycle campaigning is that it's often easy to miss a consultation deadline or some other date, if there's a lot going on. By then, it's too late, and the opportunity to see improvements to cycling are missed.

The set dates are now listed in 'My Cyclescape', the user's main summary area. We'll be developing this interface further.

Collision data:

Collision data is now integrated, using a new data feed from CycleStreets, and linking through to their collision reports.

This feature has been developed for the Cambridge group, pushed forward because of the large number of planning applications in that area, for which collision data can often provide a useful context.

Development of this feature, and various underlying code pre-requisites, has been possible thanks to a grant from Cambridge Sustainable City, whose support has been invaluable.

This screenshot, for instance, shows the site of collisions in Mill Road, an area subject to continuing pressures on cyclists from lorries. Several planning applications in recent years would have benefitted from this data being available.

The finalised interface for collisions isn't quite in place yet - buttons for this will be added to finish it off.

Per-thread attachments:

Attachments can now be added to individual discussion threads. Previously the only way to add an attachment was to add it to the Library, which is always public.

Currently there is a slight limitation that, if e-mailing to the discussion thread (since you can reply to things via e-mail, not just via the website), attachments do not get through. We're working on this!

Committee-only privacy setting:

There are now three privacy options for each discussion thread:

  • Public (publicly visible)
  • Group (i.e. available to all members of the group)
  • Committee (available only to current Committee members)

The latter option means that groups can discuss sensitive matters in privacy if required, e.g. pre-consultation plans from a developer.

There is a setting in the group's area which sets the default (public/group) when their members start a discussion thread.

Cyclescape has a voting system, which now results in a list of popular items, ensuring that key strategic issues can stay floated to the top.

More will be done to expose this feature in due course, as the rest of the interface is improved, but the underlying functionality is now in place.

 

The What's New? link at the end of each page on the site has a log of individual features and bugfixes as they are put in.

Bit by bit, the site's functionality and interface is falling into place!

In our next blog post we'll talk about what we're currently working on, i.e. what's missing and what's not yet finished.

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!

More support for our GeoVation bid coming in

As we prepare to face the judges at the Dragon's Den -style contest for GeoVation on May 4th, we're encouraged that more support is continuing to come in.

CPRE (The Campaign to Protect Rural England) work actively on transport matters amongst other issues around the UK.

They have added their support:

"The Campaign to Protect Rural England is delighted to be able to support the CycleStreets GeoVation Challenge bid. We have been working with local communities and parish councils to increase travel options in rural areas as part of our Transport Toolkit project, which was featured in the Department for Transport's Local Transport White Paper earlier this year. Through this work we have found there is a real need for new on-line collaboration tools to help improve conditions for cycling. We believe these innovative proposals would be a huge step forward not just for cycling campaign groups but for others engaged at the local level who seek to improve the range of sustainable travel choices."

- Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport Campaigner, CPRE

Also, the creator of the heavily-used OpenCycleMap map, Andy Allan, has written on his blog about "The Problem of Cycle Complaining" and supporting our bid.

He describes our bid as "a hugely important step forward for all cycle campaigning groups". He hits the nail on the head, recognising the same problems that we and other groups around the country have found, as this extract explains:

If a cycle group want to approach a council to convert one-way roads into two-way, they are unlikely to have the traffic simulations to show the five most useful changes. There’s just a huge gulf in tools and technologies available to each side, so when the only way things work is for one side to suggest and the other to accept/refuse, it’s easier to see where so much reactionary complaining comes from.

Enter the guys behind CycleStreets, with their “Helping campaigners campaign” proposal. You can read it for yourself, but in summary is a web-based tool to track, manage and develop solutions to infrastructure problems facing cyclists. While it’s not a panacea for everything I’ve discussed, I think it’s a hugely important step forward for all cycle campaigning groups. Their proposal has been short-listed for the GeoVation awards finals in two weeks’ time and I wish them the best of luck, the funding from that would really kick things off. If you want to show your support then go for it, through your blogs, twitter or however you see fit. Even if they don’t manage the grand prize I hope to see their proposals come to fruition in the near future, especially given their track record of getting things done. I hope to get the opportunity to help their ideas see the light of day – it will be an excellent tool to help turn cycle complaining into the results we want to see.

CPRE and Andy Allan of OpenCycleMap join other supporters of the bid:

  • Cyclenation, the national federation of cycle campaign groups
  • CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation
  • London Cycling Campaign
  • Richmond Cycling Campaign
  • Bristol
  • Pedals (Nottingham Cycling Campaign)
  • Dublin Cycling Campaign
  • Cambridge Cycling Campaign
  • Spokes – the Lothian Cycle Campaign
  • Spokes (East Kent Cycle Campaign)
  • Loughborough & District Cycle Users' Campaign
  • Push Bikes, the Birmingham Cycling Campaign
  • CycleSheffield

Read their quotes of support in section 10 our full bid document.

If you're free on 4th May, we'd love you to come to the GeoVation Showcase to support us (and vote for us for the additional Community Prize!). It's a daytime event on the south coast, so we're aware it may not be easy for people to come to, but do come should you happen to be free. There are a number of other interesting projects, so it will be a good chance to hear about them and mingle and network with other innovators.

Get your free ticket here: http://geovationshowcase2011.eventbrite.com/

Here's a great picture of many of the people whose ideas got through to the shortlisting stage of GeoVation:

GeoVation

Photo credit: GeoVation blog

Press release: CycleStreets’ cycling project to face Dragon’s Den -style contest

A Cambridge-based project to improve cycling around the Britain has reached the finals of a national funding contest, GeoVation, run by the Ordnance Survey. GeoVation aims to combine Geography and Innovation to help fund ideas which will help improve transport of various kinds.

The bid by Cambridge-based CycleStreets, who run the UK-wide cycle journey planner website, has reached the final 10 projects aiming to improve transport in Britain. Over 150 entries were initially submitted, and CycleStreets have succeeded in the initial shortlisting stage and a subsequent workshop event.

The 'Dragon's Den' -style event to select the winning projects will be held on 4th May at the Ordnance Survey's new eco-friendly headquarters in Southampton. This 'GeoVation Showcase' event will select around five winners, who will share a bounty of £150,000, to enable the projects to be developed.

CycleStreets' proposal is for a web-based system to improve the effectiveness of cycling advocacy groups around the UK. These groups aim to get more people on their bikes, by encouraging local councils to create safer and more convenient conditions for cycling. It is designed to help volunteers who care passionately about improving cycling to work together as effectively as possible.

CycleStreets' proposal has the backing of both of the national cycling campaign bodies and a range of groups around the UK, including Cambridge Cycling Campaign. For instance, CTC – the national cyclists' organisation said:

"A webtool for cyclists to help local councils spend their cycling budgets cost-effectively would be a wonderful 'big society' venture, that could yield huge benefits for our health and that of our streets, communities and the environment."

CycleStreets' idea will make use of a variety of information sources, including the Ordnance Survey's boundary and postcode data, collision and planning application information, and OpenStreetMap data.

Dr Chris Parker, GeoVation Co-ordinator at Ordnance Survey, said:

"There are huge and exciting opportunities for geography to be harnessed to help us all travel in a smarter, more sustainable way, as all our finalists have clearly demonstrated. We're looking forward to seeing the CycleStreets pitch and wish them the best of luck."

Notes for editors:

  1. Information about GeoVation, and the finalists – including CycleStreets' proposal – can be found online at http://www.geovation.org.uk/.
  2. Details of CycleStreets' bid, 'Helping Campaigners Campaign' is at http://www.cyclestreets.net/blog/2011/03/06/geovation-bid-shortlisted/
  3. For more details, contact CycleStreets
  4. CycleStreets is a not-for-profit company based in Cambridge, and was created as an off-shoot of Cambridge Cycling Campaign.
  5. CycleStreets runs the UK-wide Cycle journey planner and Photomap at www.cyclestreets.net , which has had over 640,000 journeys planned. Users can plan cycle-friendly routes from A-B, and will get three options – a quietest, fastest and balanced route option. The Photomap enables people to add photos of cycling-related problems and good practice to the map.
  6. A copy of the Ordnance Survey logo and the CycleStreets logo are available. A full-size version of the graphic above is also available.

CycleStreets’ bid to GeoVation shortlisted

How can we improve transport in Britain?

We're pleased to announce that our GeoVation bid, 'Helping Campaigners Campaign' has been shortlisted from the 155 ideas submitted to GeoVation!

The proposal is for an extensive suite of tools that will really help cycling campaigners around the UK - people who are already enthused - to be more effective in their work. It will build on the basic reporting facility in our Photomap and its fleldgling categorisation system.

These groups – large and small, national and local, are the people on the ground who work make cycling better. They're already enthused, so we need to give them as much support as possible.

However, there's a way to go yet - firstly we are invited to develop the idea at the GeoVation Camp, 25 – 27 March. The best ideas, hopefully including ours(!) will then go forward to the final pitching session, the GeoVation Showcase, on May 4th.

Support for our bid

We're pleased to say that the bid now has the support of both of the national cycle campaigning organisations as well as a number of the most active local groups, including the biggest, London Cycling Campaign:

  • Cyclenation, the national federation of cycle campaign groups
  • CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation
  • Cambridge Cycling Campaign
  • London Cycling Campaign
  • Richmond Cycling Campaign
  • Bristol
  • Pedals (Nottingham Cycling Campaign)
  • Dublin Cycling Campaign
  • Spokes - the Lothian Cycle Campaign
  • Spokes (East Kent Cycle Campaign)
  • Loughborough & District Cycle Users' Campaign
  • Push Bikes, the Birmingham Cycling Campaign
  • CycleSheffield

all of whom have written quotes of support. Please let us know if you would like to add your group to the list.

How would it work, in brief?

  1. Cyclists would pinpoint problems (points/lines) on a map, e.g. lack of cycle parking, hostile roads, absence of needed route, poor quality cycling conditions, etc., with a photo if available. Planning applications could also appear automatically where the data is available.
  2. (Mobile apps can also post to the database using the existing infrastructure to enable this.)
  3. Others can publicly comment on each submission and add local knowledge. Examples of best practice elsewhere in the system can be pulled in (e.g. as example solutions).
  4. A 'heat map' of problem areas would start to develop, together with per-point indications of status of a problem
  5. Each location effectively becomes an entry in both the map and in a forum-style view
  6. Campaign group members would log in to their group's area of the website, and would have drag-and-drop -style tools to prioritise and discuss the locations. Locations could also be grouped together, e.g. so that multiple issues arising from one development are treated most effectively.
  7. Documents, e-mails and web references can be 'attached' to a particular issue so that all information relating to one issue is in one place.
  8. Cyclists in each area would also be encouraged to register and to 'draw on the map' their typical journeys (helped by the CycleStreets journey planner), so that they can then be alerted to issues and campaigns along those routes
  9. As an issue progresses in terms of external campaigning, it is updated and 'published' in various ways via the site
  10. Prioritised lists can be 'pushed out' to Local Authority contacts, or they can be invited to join the conversation
  11. When issues are finally resolved these would be marked as such, also publicising the work of the group concerned
  12. Where routes in the CycleStreets journey planner are planned that pass through improved areas, the work of the group would be publicised!

The whole system would need to be extremely user-friendly, so that it gets the widest possible usage and actively engages people without technical skills.