Motorists have TomTom and Garmin. Cyclists now have the Bike Hub iPhone app. This free app, launched only four days ago, is already a top two navigation app on iTunes. The app is getting new people on bikes and, by displaying clever short-cuts and bicycle-friendly routes, is cutting the journey times of existing cyclists.
A new iPhone app has been launched which helps cyclists plan journeys away from busy roads. The Bike Hub app is free on iTunes.
The app uses a satnav-style routing engine developed specifically for cyclists. Unlike standard satnavs, or Google Maps, the Bike Hub iPhone app can route cyclists along cycle paths, such as routes on the Sustrans’ National Cycle Network.
Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans’ Chief Executive said:
“Over half the UK population lives within a mile of the National Cycle Network but how many people are aware that this fast, free and healthy transport option is on their doorstep? As the charity behind the Network we’re delighted to see it promoted as widely as possible as part of an iPhone app that will help people to get out more on foot and by bike for their everyday journeys.”
The app routes away from up-hill slogs for cyclists who wish to avoid them, but gives a high priority to downhill routes.
Users can choose between three route modes: quietest, quickest or balanced.
‘Quickest route’ users are directed via roads (although not dual carriageways or motorways). Those cyclists who don’t care to mingle with motorised traffic would choose ‘quietest route’ and would then be guided along back-streets and, where available and sensible, cycle routes. The ‘balanced route’ provides a good mix between the two.
The app was produced by Tinderhouse of Kent and commissioned by Carlton Reid, editor of BikeHub.co.uk, a newly-launched website owned by the two UK bicycle industry organisations.
Reid said: “Using the Bike Hub app is like being guided by a friend who knows all the clever short-cuts.”
The cycle routing is done via CycleStreets of Cambridge, a community-based group working on a not-for-profit basis. Cyclestreets uses mathematical graph theory algorithms to quickly work out bicycle-friendly routes. Mapping is provided by OpenCycleMap via OpenStreetMap, the ‘wikipedia of maps’. OpenStreetMap is a community of 300,000 map enthusiasts worldwide who collaborate to produce the most up-to-date maps available. Changes made by members of the OSM community can be available online within hours.
The Bike Hub app was produced for trade associations the Bicycle Association of Great Britain and the Association of Cycle Traders. Bike Hub is the UK cycle industry’s levy scheme. Cash from the voluntary levy has allowed the iPhone app to be free on iTunes.
As well as working out bicycle-friendly routes the app has a ‘bike shop finder’ button, calling up bike shops within a six mile radius of an iPhone. Directions are then given to the shops discovered, of which there are 2500 across the UK. The database was supplied by the Association of Cycle Traders.
The app went live on iTunes on Saturday night and has been downloaded by thousands of iPhone and iPad owners. Within two days of its launch, the app was third in the navigation category on iTunes.
iTunes reviewers have been overwhelmingly positive. iTunes reviewer ‘AndyGoodas’ wrote:
“I thought the roads on my South London commute were too dangerous for me to consider riding as an amateur, but this showed me a brilliant alternative route on quiet back roads I’d never thought of without the app. Going to ride to work most days now, wish I’d started ages ago.”
Andrew Norton of the Aarght art gallery in Oxford emailed BikeHUb.co.uk with his praise for the app:
“I thought the fastest way to work was 18:40 minutes but after 2 years doing various different routes, you showed me a path and a couple of shortcuts that have reduced it to 16:50! Gob smacked!”
Reid added: “While the app was developed for newbies and hesitant cyclists, it’s proving useful for enthusiast cyclists, too. It can suggest routes up to 100 miles. I’ve used a beta version on family bike tours and it was a great way to feed accurate distance and time-of-arrival information to kids asking ‘are we there yet dad?'”
The app does not yet feature a turn-by-turn voice for directions but this will be added in an update. As well as a synthetic voice, the app will feature the famous voice of TV commentator Phil Liggett.
On iTunes, the Bike Hub app stresses that cyclists should not navigate with one hand and steer with another. Instead the app recommends the use of one of a growing number of iPhone handlebar mounts, stocked by the Apple Store and other outlets. The Bike Hub Cycle Journey planner requires the iOS 3.1.3 Software Update or later.
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