OpenStreetMaps adds bicycle & pedestrian wayfinding

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Good news for OpenStreetMap: the main website now has A-to-B routing (directions) built in to the homepage! This will be huge for the OSM project. Kudos to Richard Fairhurst and everyone who helped get this up and running.

You might be thinking, “Why would this be huge? Isn’t it just a feature that other map websites have had for years now?” Well, the first thing to note is that the philosophy of OpenStreetMap is not to offer a one-stop-shop on our main website, but to create truly open data to empower others to do great things with it. So there has already been fantastic OSM-based travel routing for many years, on excellent websites such as OSRM, Mapquest, Graphhopper, Cyclestreets, Komoot,… the list goes on and on.

But all of those things are on other websites and apps, so people don’t always realise that OpenStreetMap has this power. What this latest development has done is really neat: the OSM website offers directions which are actually provided by third-party systems, but they are included in the main site via some crafty JavaScript coding. So as well as being really handy in itself to have directions available, it helps “first glancers” to see all the things they can do
with OSM.

But that’s not what makes it huge.

What makes it huge is the difference it will make to OpenStreetMap’s data by creating a virtuous feedback loop. . . . That feedback loop is what allowed OpenStreetMap to build up what is now the most complete map of many regions around the world. . . .

The end effect will be OSM’s data going up one more level in terms of its quality for routing. This will empower everyone to do great things with geographic data and getting from A to B.

So find yourself some directions today!

MoBikeFed comment: When Google added bicycle wayfinding as an integrated part of their online maps a few years ago, it made a huge difference in mainstreaming bicycling. Google has integrated a huge amount of bicycle route and trail data and other information that was previously available only piecemeal.

And with bicycle and pedestrian directions added to Google maps, other online map services followed suit--Yahoo, Bing, and others.

With adding bicycle and pedestrian wayfinding now, too--and from two different provides for bicycling, and two for walking--it just helps to mainstream bicycling and walking even more.

But, in addition, maps are open for developers, nonprofits, and companies to use and build on, far more so than the proprietary map servers. So we should see the bicycle and pedestrian wayfinding capabilities added to many mapping applications based on in the future.