An online search engine for the Twin Cities' best bicycle routes received a funding boost this year to partner with local transportation agencies.
Cyclopath.org allows users to search for bicycle routes and update the site with their own information about everything from the worst potholes to the most scenic streets. Users enter their starting path and destination, and can then customize their routes based on shortest distance versus "bikeability" ratings.
The Metropolitan Council received a $185,000 grant this year from Transit for Livable Communities to create Cycloplan, an extension to the Web site. The grant is part of the Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative, a federally funded program designed to increase bicycling and walking in the metro area.
Cycloplan will allow local transportation agencies to seek input from area bicyclists about proposed bicycle trails, construction detours, bicycle facilities, and other changes. Users could draw their own maps on the site and submit them to city planners.
"It opens up so many opportunities," said Reid Priedhorsky, a University of Minnesota graduate student and Cyclopath project leader. "Any member of the public could just show what they wanted instead of having to draw a sketch and mail it in."
Users have made more than 8,000 additions to the site since it went online last year. The site includes tips from avid cyclists. "Yield sign onto northbound Cretin Ave (keep your momentum!)" writes one user.
Another comment lists the class schedules for the University of Minnesota, so that bicyclists can avoid heavy pedestrian traffic in between classes.
Robin Garwood of Minneapolis recently used the site to bike to Edina to attend a chamber orchestra performance.
"It was nice," he said. "It was kind of off the beaten path a little bit, instead of on some four-lane divided road."
Bicyclist and Cyclopath user Peter Breyfogle of Shoreview said the growing popularity of the site makes sense, given the economic climate.
"I think a lot of us are looking for ways where we can use our bikes more frequently," he said.
Priedhorsky said he hopes the site will encourage more people to reduce their dependence on cars.
"I've been told that a lot of the reasons why people don't bike to work is because they don't think it's possible or they don't know how to do it," he said. "Cyclopath can show you that you can do it."
The project team hopes to have most of the expanded Web site completed by summer 2010. The team is also considering creating similar Web sites for other bicycle-friendly cities, including Portland, Ore. and Austin, Texas.