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Strava is Just the Start: The Promise of Open Trail Data

Stashed in: Software!, Outdoors, Teh Internets, Cycling!

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One of the best things about the Internet is that it really pushed orgs and devs to STANDARDIZE their data and think about how to make it maximally shareable. This probably doesn't seem that awesome to young people... but for people old enough to have had to HAND-CORRELATE data on paper, it is an amazing world!

Oh wow, this is awesome:

Perhaps you've read how Strava, the mapping service designed to help athletes track bike rides and runs, is now feeding the anonymous, aggregate data they collect from users (more than 2.5 million GPS-tracked activities each week, according to the company) to urban and bike planners. The hope is that understanding where and when commuters ride will lead to better biking infrastructure.

Strava is also one of a handful of organizations working to standardize trail and public land data in a manner similar to the way McHugh helped standardize transit data. The nonprofit Code for America, which uses technology to improve local government and public services, is leading the project, called the Open Trail System Specification (or just Open Trails). 

Open Trails was born through a project to help visitors navigate the hive of different trails system in Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park, adjacent state and city parks, and trail systems in the Akron and Cleveland metro areas. "The specification is designed to help these parks communicate with one voice and provide one map for their 8 million annual visitors," says Alan Williams, who runs Open Trails development at Code for America.

Most states have at least one similar conglomerate of parks, governed by various agencies who use their own maps to illustrate their trails networks. There are often small feeder trails that link the networks together, but you may not see them on a map produced by one of the parks. But with the Open Trails standard, all the data will live in a standard format and look the same to mapping or application software, which will save a ton of time and expense when creating or updating maps or applications. Parks that are adjacent to or nearby each other will be able to create a single map, for example, making linking up a route through multiple parks a lot easier.

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