iPhone 'satnav' app getting new people on bikes

We created our cycle journey planning and bike shop finding app as a way of helping folks gain confidence to cycle in cities. (Folks as in iPhone-owning folks but Android owners rejoice, an app for you is on the way). By having cycle-friendly routing advice just a tap or two away, scales would drop from people’s eyes and cities would be reclaimed by cyclists.

OK, enough of the hyperbole. How have we done? To begin with, many of the user comments were from existing cyclists, amazed that the algorithms from the Cyclestreets chaps could quicken their commutes.

Getting keenies to work quicker wasn’t our original intent but if it works, don’t knock it.

We also discovered that some folks wanted to plan long-distance bike tours. While the app can’t (yet) plot a cycle-friendly route from Lands End to John O’Groats, it can handle A to B distances of 100 miles. Not bad considering these routes might be – for the choosing – Sustrans-style off-road cycle routes and bridleways, as well as roads.

We love all our users, we really do. We love all the comments on iTunes, too. (Well, maybe not all of them). And we’re happy to keep updating the app with user suggestions. Tweaks to see the light of day soon include adding ‘via’ points, fading the route line so street names are visible, and, of course, true turn-by-turn directions, a world first for a cycling app.

But what we were really after were comments from newbies, telling us the app got them back on their bikes. And it’s pleasing to report that such comments are now arriving.

Larry Taylor warmed the cockles of our app-making hearts by emailing this:

“Great app very useful to break me back into a pastime I thought I would never do again. I’ve already used the app to find local bike shops to get gear from and just used it to find out about the Cycle to Work scheme which I’m going to see my boss about on Monday. Expect your ears to burn. Seriously useful app, congrats.”

Sarah Page emailed:

“Just wanted to let you know how great your app is! It’s made a big difference to my cycling habits, especially to places that I may have assumed were only accessible by big scary ring roads!”

The subject line of David Woodhead’s email is short and sweet: ‘Your app rocks!’ His email was a lot longer, giving us some great feedback on how to improve the app, some of which is already in progress. David wrote:

“Thanks to the team who put your iPhone app together.  I tried it for the first time today and it brilliantly got me 35 miles without a hitch.  I’d often wondered before about this route but bottled it fearing it was too hilly. Your elevation preview gave me the confidence to have a go.

“Your forthcoming turn-by-turn voice commands will make this the best cycling app imaginable…The app is brilliantly executed and you could easily justify a mid-range price tag for it.”

Truly, this is all music to our ears. We’d love to hear of other similar experiences, especially from newbies or for whom the app has encouraged more urban cycling. Please consider adding comments to iTunes or sending them in via email or our online form.

While the Bike Hub app is free on iTunes, it cost a fair bit to develop. It’s an advert-free app, paid for by the Bike Hub levy.

This levy on sales of bicycles and bike parts in the UK paid for the first four officers on the wildly popular Bike It scheme, which now has 54 officers around the country, all of them encouraging school children to cycle more.

Bike Hub also helps pay for Bike Week and, via the New Ideas Fund, also supports the Age Well on Wheels cycling scheme in London, getting senior citizens on bikes; and supports Darlovelo, the Darlington Dutch bike scheme for young women.

More people on bikes, more often. That is/was the aim of Cycling England and it’s the aim of Bike Hub too. The app is now proving its worth in this respect, and as it’s now well known there’s a ‘safety in numbers’ effect, if it can create a few more cyclists, we all benefit.

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