The Best Research Year

Posted by Doug Shidell, September 2nd, 2012

The Twin Cities Bike Map is officially updated every three years, but research is an ongoing job and it follows a pattern. In 2011 revision 10.0 was released. Despite my best efforts, the latest edition always has some minor flaws and astute map owners will tell me about them. The changes, no more than a half dozen per revision, are researched when necessary and added to the map file on my computer. That’s usually the extent of research during the first year. It’s also a time for me to catch up on house projects that were put off during the more intense research years. Last year that included spending evenings and weekends painting the trim on the house.

The second year is the best year, and this has been an exceptionally good second year. This is the year that I take long, looping tours through the metro area. I’ve ridden to Stillwater to see the Nature Valley Grand Prix bike race, ridden an ad hoc century ride that crossed the Minnesota River at I-494, wandered through Eagan, Burnsville, Savage and Shakopee, then crossed the river again into Chaska. From there I worked my way to Excelsior and back to Minneapolis.

I’ve done 50 mile rides to the north, 40 miles to the west, short errand loops in every direction and, with each ride,  I’ve adjusted my route to give me a look at existing and potential bike routes.  The rides are always fun. They reassure me that routes are still good for cycling or they expose a route as unsuitable for future bike traffic.

They also give me a better feel for the interconnectedness of the routes. To me, a good bike map is one that allows cyclists to get from one place to another with a minimum of hassles. Turns should be intuitive from either direction, routes should flow from one to the next in a logical fashion and routes should be good in both directions. Year two allows me to test the map to see if the routes meet those criteria

It also takes some pressure off year three. The third year is the mop up year. I grid off the map and research each grid until all the roads have been reviewed.  I get to know the area in detail, but I’m so deep into the weeds that it is hard to see how the various routes combine to form good loops or direct routes to destinations. I’m on and off the bike frequently during year three as I stop to study the map and plot routes. I backtrack often to pick up a spur that shoots off into a new direction and I hit a lot of dead ends as I follow routes that don’t work out.

I still have a couple of good months left in year two and plan to take advantage of them. If you see me passing through your neighborhood, say Hi, and if you have suggestions for new routes or changes to existing routes, let me know. Many of the best routes on the Twin Cities Bike Map come from cyclists who know their area of the Twin Cities better than I can hope to know.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News