The ontology of bike routes

February 27th, 2014

It is the implied authority of geospatially precise ‘bike route recommendations’ that puts me off;¬† my travelling ontology doesn’t recognize such routes.

OKI bicycle map of the cincinnati area

Bike routes to me, where not literally demarcated by bollards or boundary paint, are a loose, conceptual topology of best-paths contingent on weather, health and my day’s ambition. There are rare edges that are fairly static and these can be mapped: Spring Grove can be for racers and relaxation, snowing or scorched. But why transpose it literally? “Spring Grove”, as I mean it, is a heuristic referencing the whole street, perhaps even to the whole Mill Creek valley east of the tracks, not a geocoded centerline. Ol’ Colerain sliced by the highway is a good ride too, and I take it sometimes if I feel like looking at something different.

How to communicate such useful, abstract edges?

A hand-rendered, schematic map is so clearly subjective it openly invites criticism from the viewer’s own ideosyncratic subjectivity. This is ideal. The point of bike-route¬† maps cannot be to convey authority but to connote personal suggestion.

Here is my morning’s attempt at a bicycle edges map, from memory and a half-hour.

central car-free-cincinnati schematic map

Now to digitize and make it look decent…

What’s all this about a West//East divide? I’d like to propose a distinct Car-Free-Cincinnatian spatial identity that apparently fails to recognize any but the central neighborhoods and places well-connected by transit. I couldn’t for the life of me recall how to bike to Xavier, NKU, or College Hill because I so often take transit to those places. My concept of the city seems to have a very tightly connected core with more distant neighborhoods dangling from abstract transit lines but no street names. This may more accurately be my winter version of the city. Come summer I’m much more likely to bike laterally.

2 responses to “The ontology of bike routes”

  1. Julie says:

    I just think of yes, maybe and no-way streets. Victory Parkway is a yes, Montgomery Road is a yes, same with Madison Road and Gilbert. They are wide and even with traffic I don’t feel threatened on them. Nos include Dana and Reading (can you tell I live near XU?). I can’t automatically recall maybes; maybe the categories are yes and no.

    • Nate Wessel says:

      See, for me Reading is a sometimes. But that’s because I live right at the bottom of it and the downhill isn’t too bad.

      But the point is that even if we have these definite categories in our own minds, there’s no way the classifications of a dozen let alone a thousand people will line up very well except on some exceptional streets.