U of M’s Grouplens Research Lab Goes Cyclopath for Minnesota’s Burgeoning Bicycle Community

Grouplens Cyclopath

The University of Minnesota’s human computer interaction and social computing research lab known as Grouplens has been busy leveraging technology to improve the riding experiences for Twin Cities bicyclists under a project called Cyclopath.

Cyclopath is but one of the many ongoing research experiments being conducted by the collective group of 20-25 and led by faculty Loren Terveen , John Riedl and Joseph Konstan.

Centered around the theme of multi-modal routing, the service started in 2008 with funding  from the National Science Foundation and a database of road maps from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT).   Through a web based interface, the open sourced geowiki crowd sources rider information and commentary on elements of  ‘bike ability’ — denoting short cuts, route ratings, commentary and inevitable roadway/trail changes in near real time based on user generated feedback.  From here, cyclists can print or download to a GPS device — an android application is also available.

“Our understanding is limited by our time and ability to algorithmically analyze the data,” University of Minnesota Computer Science professor Loren Terveen explains. “95% has been consistent with the original source, but there’s many critical details that we’ve been able to improve upon. So far, we’ve decreased the average route length by roughly 8%, indicating that the crowd sourced user-input equates to  increased productivity.”

Cyclopath has seen over 3,000 registered users to date, thousands of edits, 80,000+ ratings  and experiences over 100 daily route requests during peak season. “The problem was that the kind of knowledge that cyclists need is typically only available from fellow cyclists and wasn’t being organized, managed and shared in a useful way prior to Cyclopath,” says Terveen.  The success of Cyclopath has since attracted additional funding for expansion from MNDOT and the Metropolitan Council; the team anticipates moving beyond the seven country metro area and into greater Minnesota this fall.

“We are open to various commercial opportunities,” concludes Terveen.