Search system overhauled to give much better results

We're pleased to announce that we've replaced the search result system with a completely new engine that gives much better results.

After a week of tuning the results, we think this now seems to find what you're looking for pretty consistently.

A bit of history: the search system that we launched with was really just a basic text search that didn't have any proper ranking system. Accordingly, this meant that the issue or discussion thread you wanted appeared hidden randomly amongst lots of other results.

The new system is a proper search engine, with rankings that we can tune and improve over time. We've already added various tweaks.

Search results

Let us know via the feedback link on the site if you get a search result hasn't found what you know is there.

Secondly, we've added pagination, so you're no longer limited to one page of results.

Another long-awaited improvement is that searches within a group's area will only return results from that area. So if you're in, say, Camden Cyclists' Cyclescape area, you won't get results polluted with issues from Cambridge, Sheffield, Leeds, or wherever.

Next planned improvement is to integrate the planning application search into the main search area.

This work to facilitate work by local cycling advocates has been possible thanks to grant support from the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation. Thanks also to our developer, Nikolai!

Improvements for groups

We've made various improvements for group managers.

If you didn't already know, cycling groups are able to create their own Cyclescape space, giving a custom web address and various personalisations.

You can of course use Cyclescape as an individual, but have you seen if there are any groups near you? Have a browse of the groups gallery:

Groups gallery

You can create a group using the 'Request new group' form in the top-right:

New group form

Groups can now add a photo to help personalise their page, alongside information about the group.

Each group's home page has a custom web address, e.g. (Cambridge Cycling Campaign), (Camden Cyclists), etc.

You can also join a group from their home page:


For group committee members, we've also made various improvements to the user management area.

Join a group now!


This work to facilitate work by local cycling advocates has been possible thanks to grant support from the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation. Thanks also to our developer, Nikolai!

Privacy improvements

Summary: We're changing how names are displayed on the site. Please take the opportunity to review use of your display name in your settings.

We're rolling out some privacy improvements, taking effect 20th June 2015.

Some groups have told us that it is important to them that they are able to operate on the basis of member discussions using real names, so that members know who they are talking to. However, we recognise that this could be in conflict with the entirely reasonable desire not to have one's name on the public internet if wished.

Accordingly, we have worked to implement a solution to this, whereby you can set your real name which people in your groups will see, but set a display name for everyone else. Previously the display name was always used.

Improved controls over how your name is displayed to others

We provide privacy controls that enable you to avoid your name being shown publicly on the internet while still visible to fellow members in a discussion. These are available on the account details page, and the two fields for your name will work as follows from 20th June:

  • your real name (visible to members of groups you are in); and
  • an optional display name (for all other situations); if you don't set one, you'll be shown as anonymous.

The visibility rule described above is used whenever your name is shown to others, e.g.:

  • next to each posting you make;
  • in the list of people subscribed to a discussion thread; and
  • on your user profile.

As the site is intended for collaborative discussion and working, we think it is helpful to your colleagues to use your real name when identifying yourself. Some groups using the site operate discussions on a real-names basis, so they may require that you identify yourself by your real name.

Once this change has been made, we'll be removing the temporary block from search engines indexing thread content that is set to be public.

This requirement to private groups with the ability to operate on a real-names basis was one of the drivers for this improvement.

Better control of your profile page

In order to foster a sense of community, we provide each member of the site with a user profile. This shows only the details you have chosen to enter on the Edit my profile page.

As of 20th June, you'll be able disable your user profile at any time (again via the Edit my profile page), so that it is not visible to others.

Privacy policy

Lastly, the site now has an explicit privacy policy, linked to from the bottom of each page.

This includes the points above, as well as others, such as that we don't share your information with others e.g. for commercial purposes, and has the usual information on cookies.

We also clarify that we only use EU-based server hosting (in fact, currently UK only).

Illustrate discussions with Street View posting

During a discussion on cycling issues, it's often helpful to be able to show other people the location you have in mind.

For instance, a long road with multiple sideroads can be hard for other people to visualise.

So we've added a helpful feature for campaigners: Street View message replies. While it's of course possible to navigate off-site, get a Street View link, and return, we've taken out that extra stage. The Street View button also tries to find a sensible default location.

In a thread, just click on Street View in the reply box, position the map where you want, add a comment and press submit.

People will then be able to see where you mean, straight from within the thread.

Street View messages

(Hopefully in future an open source equivalent in the form of Mapillary might become possible!)

This work to facilitate work by local cycling advocates has been possible thanks to grant support from the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation. Thanks also to our developer, Nikolai!

What we’re working on

We're busy on various updates to Cyclescape.

As discussed on our mailing list, the current priorities are as follows; we've included a link to further details on each:

  • Ability to set a Google Street View location as a reply type (#78)
  • Enabling the planning applications integration to go live (#76 and code branch)
  • Improvements to make the integrated collision data much more obvious in the user interface (#34)
  • Improvements to privacy controls, which will particularly benefit groups who wish to enforce a real-names policy (#218)
  • Set the creation of an Issue to prompt for Thread creation (#43)
  • Improving the discoverability of enabling receipt of discussions by e-mail (#198)

Much of this work has been funded thanks to the Polden-Puckham grant.

We are also grateful to Cambridge Cycling Campaign and a personal donor for funding a few of the objectives above most important to them.

We'd like to take the opportunity to welcome a new contributor to the code, Nikolai Berkoff. (Naturally, others remain very welcome to get involved too!)

Site running faster – thanks to new hardware

The Cyclescape website is now running rather faster than before, thanks to a hardware upgrade completed today.

The change has seen the site move to a dedicated server. Previously, it was on a virtual machine on a server shared with one of the CycleStreets journey planner servers. The change was part of a larger set of moves being worked on over the coming two months being undertaken by us (CycleStreets, the organisation running Cyclescape). There has been a noticeable and much-needed performance boost.

For those of a technical bent, we have also taken the opportunity to resolve various other things:

  • Upgraded the operating system
  • Upgraded the webserving software and database software
  • Removed old legacy references throughout the code dating from before the 'Cyclescape' name was chosen

Thanks to Andy, our developer, for some of the work to migrate the code to enable these various changes.

Part of the hosting upgrade cost has come from the Polden-Puckham grant.

The upgrade has been also contributed to by our hosts, Mythic Beasts, who have kindly waived the server management fee which helps ensure we run a professional and properly-monitored service. Naturally, the site hosting also has redundancy and regular backup. We remain grateful to our friends at Mythic Beasts for their support.

Grant from the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation

We are delighted to announce that Cyclescape has been successfully awarded a grant from the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation for the next phase of development on Cyclescape.

The grant covers £10,000 of development work this year, and £8,000 in 2015-16.

The Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation (PPCF) is a grant-giving trust with Quaker family roots in the United Kingdom. It aims to contribute to the development of a just society based on a commitment to nonviolence and environmental sustainability.


Key things that we want to work on, which the funding will contribute towards, are:

  • Launching the automated planning applications integration - changes when datasource finalised (see previous blog post)
  • Show Google Street View at any location automatically
  • Membership management system for delegated groups
  • Ability to invite decision-makers and others into specific discussions
  • Enhancement of the Library system, which enables key resources to be shared nationally
  • Subscription on the basis of themes (e.g. cycle parking) rather than only defined areas
  • Private messaging system
  • Much better search
  • Deadline reminders
  • Show photos in nearby area automatically
  • ... and more.

You can see many of these within the list of outstanding issues in our public bug-tracker.

We are currently looking for a developer to work on Cyclescape using the funding from this grant - which is open-source code written in Ruby on Rails. Do get in touch if you may be interested.

New development mailing list and developer resources

We've set up a new mailing list for anyone interested in helping maintain and develop the Cyclescape code. Do join if you want to get involved, want to discuss the development of Cyclescape, or have any questions or ideas.

The list is public and open, and you can subscribe to the list.

We've also created a list of key developer resources via a new 'Help with the code' page on this blog.

We hope these will help get new developers involved. We're very happy to help give advice on getting you going - just post to the new list.

Early issues on Cyclescape seeing results

It's very pleasing to see that some of the earliest issues submitted to Cyclescape, and discussed heavily on the site, are now seeing real improvements on the ground as a result.

Several big issues first lodged on the site in around 2011-12, and with hundreds of postings on Cyclescape since to advance the issue, have seen major breakthroughs since.

This blog post features three issues from Cambridge, currently the most active group on Cyclescape.

For instance, there has long been a shortage of cycle parking at Cambridge station, and a new cycle park was proposed. Members have been campaigning and discussing the cycle park, and its design. Construction is about to begin.

Another great example is the problem of cycle parking in Cambridge city centre. Since a user posted this as an issue in February 2012, members have been discussing it using Cyclescape, and this pressure resulted in a project to allocate over 600 spaces in the area.

You can see some more photographs of the results of this successful Cyclescape-backed campaigning on our sister website, CycleStreets.


Here is one more issue from Cambridge - the need for space for cycling on key roads in Cambridge. Huntingdon Road is one such location, and local campaigning, using Cyclescape to enable the group's members to discuss proposals, is about to see the scheme built.

Obviously, cycle campaigning is a mixture of campaigner pressure, as well as agreement from the authorities. We hope that Cyclescape will increasingly be seen as the solution of choice to help facilitate the first of these.

Have a browse through more of the issues in Cambridge and beyond, and get involved!

Planning applications and their effect on cycling

Over the last few years since our beta went live, the over 1,000 issues logged on Cyclescape, and being discussed by members of the site, contain a wide range of concerns. It's interesting to see the kinds of issues that act as a barrier to greater cycling around the UK.

Common things include lack of cycle parking, dangerous roads, collision-prone junctions, missing links, scrutiny of new cycleway proposals, and new residential/commercial developments that will affect cycling.

The last of these examples - planning applications, are interesting as they often represent both dangers and opportunities for cycling.

For instance, a major new housing development could result in a lot of new traffic on an already congested roads. However, there could also be an opportunity, as councils are able to negotiate "planning gain", known as Section 106 agreements (or Community Infrastructure Levy), where public infrastructure nearby is improved - such as a new cycle route, cycle parking, or traffic calming measures.

However, it is crucial that cycle campaigners know about planning applications as soon as possible, to maximise the chances of pursuading the local council to negotiate Section 106 proposals, and to give more time to look through often lengthy and complex documents for potential problems. Planning application websites are often hard to use, fail to provide a proper map view, and in general are not orientated towards monitoring of cross-cutting concerns like cycling.

Discussing a planning application relies on someone actually knowing about a planning application (that might have effects on cycling) in the first place. Of course, Cyclescape enables people to add planning applications as an issue like any other. 

However, we think there is a better way - having planning applications automatically appear on the map as a potential issue. So we've been working on a way to automate this. Using data from Openly Local, we plan to add a new tab to the overview page, so that any member of the site can 'promote' a planning application that looks like it might be of interest to an issue automatically.

Here are some screenshots of the work in progress:

Listing of planning applications in an area

Accessing any link on this page, gives a button in the corner:

Convert to an issue

This creates a new issue page, but with all the details pre-filled in, so it can be quickly reviewed/adjusted and submitted in the usual way as with any issue:


We think that automated listings of planning applications will be a powerful new feature of the site.

The motivation for this has come from Cambridge, which is a considerable growth area, and where the local cycling campaign spends a lot of time scrutinising planning applications. The vast majority of planning applications on the Cyclescape site are indeed from Cambridge. This work for Cambridge has been gratefully funded by Cambridge Sustainable City who awarded a grant for Cambridge Cyclescape.

If you're interested to help develop the code, any contributions would be very welcome, on the 'planning' branch. We now have completed the integration and user interface code, but are awaiting availability of the data, which will come from Openly Local.