Thanks for your interest in how the Bend Bike Map was made! This has been a long-held goal of our organization and we’re excited to have something to share with our community. 

We started the work by defining what our goals were for the project, and defining the scope of the work. There are a number of different possible features that one can build for a map, but we wanted to ensure that we were all on the same page regarding the goals of our map.

The goal of the bike map project is to create an online resource that is easy to use, adaptable, and expandable, that promotes safe biking by residents and visitors, and a map that contributes to an increase in biking in the city of Bend.

Bend Bikes Map Vision

Scope of work for the initial launch

We have published our full Map Scope of Work online if you’d like to see the in-depth version, but the most important points are:

  • Our audience is locals who are not familiar with our bike infrastructure and may need support in creating a route that they feel comfortable on as well as visitors to Bend. We hope our map increases the chances of them having a good experience biking around Bend and turning them into repeat riders!
  • We wanted to get a simple, useful map out first to our community, and use the feedback we got from our initial public release to plan our features going forward. We intended to keep the map simple so it would not take too much time. 
  • We wanted our initial map to focus on providing “grades” for our existing bike infrastructure, so that people could make their own informed decisions on where they want to bike. 

Initial technical approach

Once we agreed on the goals of the map, we needed to figure out how to actually build it. The world of online maps is large, and we were looking for something that would let us get started for free. 

We put together a Map Technical Details document that captured our thinking about the technical approach. The primary details are:

  • We used Shapefiles as the primary data source. These are editable by multiple tools including a free open source tool QGIS and the industry standard ArcGIS.
  • We chose Mapbox as the hosting platform for the online maps. It gave us an intuitive editing interface for the map styles, and has a generous free service.
  • We decided to host the map on the existing Bend Bikes website, embedding it in a dedicated page on the site.

“Ground truthing” our bike infrastructure

We worked with the City of Bend and Bend Parks & Recreation to get their existing GIS data for bike infrastructure. This allowed us to create a prototype map with the city data showing all the pieces of infrastructure that we’d need to ride. 

Now that we had the goals for the map and the initial design worked out. We needed to actually decide what routes should make it on the map. We got a team of volunteers together, and split a map of Bend with our prototype map into squares for each volunteer to ride.

Initial bike map tiles for color-coding

Once we rode our tiles, each volunteer color coded their map with a basic color scheme to show their assessment of the stress level or difficulty on that route.

Example of a color-coded tile

This allowed us to get the complete “ground truth” of the stress-level that actually riding on these routes entailed. 

Creating the GIS data

Now that we had most of the information in picture form, we needed to actually get that into GIS data. This is a time consuming process, and requires specialized knowledge around GIS tooling that the team didn’t have. We made the decision to hire a contractor to help us with this work, so that we could ensure that it was done to a high level.

We were excited to hire Ani Kasch, a Bend Bikes supporter, who was also a GIS expert. She was great to work with given that she is a long time bike commuter with first-hand knowledge of riding around Bend, and a vested interest in the success of the project.

Map design and styling

The last part of the project was figuring out exactly what we wanted the map to look like. This was a back-and-forth process between the team and internal Bend Bikes stakeholders to ensure that we were meeting the needs of the various members of our community.

We didn’t produce a full document at this stage of the process, instead depending on a series of example styles to express our thinking. However, we did have a few goals in the overall design process:

  • We want the map to be accessible to color blind members of our community. You may have noticed we changed from a green/yellow/red color scheme on our initial drafts, this is to make the map more accessible. We have also used different patterns and widths to represent various features, to make it more accessible as well.
  • We decided to use a green/blue/black base color scheme, which is the same as existing systems used by mountain biking and ski routes, which are well-known by many members of our community.
  • We implemented a very muted “base” map of the city, only choosing to color the river & parks for navigation purposes, and allowing the bike route coloring to be more visible.
  • We minimized the number of points of interest that were on the “base” map, to make it visually uncluttered and help with navigation.

The map now looks like this:

Initial launch styles

Next steps

There are many additional things we’re excited to put on the map. You can read some of our initial ideas in the Nice to Have and Long Term Features sections of our Map Scope of Work. We are also excited to work with the community to help prioritize what to focus on next. If you have any feedback or ideas, we’d love for you to fill out our feedback form so that we can add them to our planning.

Special thanks

The project couldn’t have been completed without the work of a number of volunteers in the community. We’d like to thank the following people who aren’t on the Bend Bikes board in particular:

  • Rob Garrott
  • Ani Kasch
  • Henry Abel
  • Morgan Crowell

We would also like to thank our major donors this past year, Spurcycle and TallTreeTrust, whose donations made it possible for us to hire a contractor and use the time we would have otherwise spent on fundraising to focus on this project!