Our maps are made using open data from OpenStreetMap, licensed under the Open Database Licence; with additional UK data from Ordnance Survey, licensed under the Open Government Licence (© Crown copyright and database right 2019), and additional Canadian data from StatCan (Geography Division, Statistics Canada). UK traffic data is from the Department for Transport under the Open Government Licence. Additional US data from federal sources.
Help improve these maps!
OpenStreetMap is made by people like you. If a cycle path, road, pub or café is missing, just head in and add it. It’ll then be available to thousands of other cyclists using cycle.travel, OpenCycleMap, CycleStreets, Sustrans’ printed maps and many other projects: we all take the same data and add our own spin to it.
Here at cycle.travel we’ve supported OpenStreetMap since its first months back in 2004; we’ve mapped countless miles of cycle routes and contributed a lot of the code that’s been used in the project over the years.
How cycle.travel uses OSM data
We aim to take updates from OpenStreetMap every month: it then takes around three days to do all the calculations to find the best routes. Here’s the date on which we last updated the data.
We do a lot of processing work to make the raw OSM map as useful as possible for cyclists (several thousand lines of code!). If you’re editing OSM, here are some of the things to keep in mind:
- We use the surface= tag to determine how suitable a path is for cycling. We look for the values asphalt, paved, concrete, tarmac, paving_stones, compacted, gravel, ground, earth, cobblestone, grass, unpaved, dirt, and sand in roughly that order (the ones at the start are better). You can use the tracktype tag as an alternative.
- If there’s no surface tag, we broadly assume cycleways are tarmac, tracks are gravel, and bridleways are dirt (though with a few local adjustments).
- In the UK, our route-planner only uses highway=track if there’s also bicycle=yes or access=yes. (Otherwise it might be a private farm track.)
- In rural areas of the US, we avoid highway=residential where the tiger:reviewed=no tag is still present, unless we have evidence to the contrary (e.g. a surface tag).
- We use route relations for NCN and local bike routes, not the old ncn_ref tag.
We also use Ordnance Survey data for UK built-up areas, Corine data for European built-up areas, and government open data for North America. We use both Ordnance Survey and NASA data for elevation.
If you find something missing or misleading in our maps and directions, head over to OpenStreetMap to fix it. But if OSM’s right, and cycle.travel isn’t doing what you’d expect with the data, we want to know. Post in the cycle.travel site forum and let us know what you think.
Frequently asked questions
How do I get a route onto my GPS?
Once you’ve planned a route, click the GPS button on the left to download it. There are lots of different formats of GPS file: we generally recommend a ‘GPX track’ which works on pretty much anything, but if you have a newer Garmin or Wahoo, you might want to choose a ‘TCX course’ which includes turn-by-turn prompts.
For most Garmins, you then need to connect your unit to the computer via USB, and copy the file across to the ‘NewFiles’ folder (cycling Garmin units: instructions) or the ‘GPX’ folder (eTrex units: instructions).
For the newest Garmins (e.g. Edge Explore), you can use the routeCourse app to transfer the route directly from your phone to your Garmin.
We don’t have any experience with Wahoo GPS units, but you should be able to download it from cycle.travel on your phone by choosing the ‘GPS’ icon: click ‘Open in…’ to open it in the Wahoo app, and then it’ll appear on your GPS. If you have any experience getting this running, let us know!
How do I get a route onto my phone?
We’re working on a cycle.travel app for your phone, but until then…
You’ll need to install an app that can open GPX files. There are many, but try:
Then back in cycle.travel, plan your route (and save it) and click the GPS button. This is under the ‘Share’ option at the bottom of the map screen on your phone. Alternatively, if you don’t see a ‘Share’ option, click the three-line button on the left of the map and the GPS button is there.
Click ‘Download’, and the route will be downloaded to your phone. It should open automatically in your app – you may need to click ‘Open in MapOut’ or something similar.
Are there any options to avoid certain types of path?
Yes! We now have a ‘paved only’ option, which avoids all gravel, earth and other unpaved surfaces. This takes up a whole bunch of memory on our servers, but so many people asked for it, we thought it was worthwhile.
The fast speed of our route-planner works means that it isn’t feasible to add lots more options: basically, the speed comes from precalculating all the best routes, which requires more memory, which means more expensive servers. But we aim to make it easy for you to adjust the route (by dragging) if there are sections you want to avoid.
Alternatively, you can turn the route-planner off between any two points, by clicking the first of the points and choosing ‘Go direct’ to the next one. This means you can plan a short stretch on a busy road even if cycle.travel doesn’t recommend it.
(If you want to read up on the maths behind cycle.travel’s super-fast routing algorithm, it’s known as Contraction Hierarchies.)
Does cycle.travel have a mobile app?
We’re developing an iPhone app at the moment and plan for it to be available in 2019, with Android to follow afterwards.
Does cycle.travel have an API?
Our costs are covered by advertising, the commission from hotel bookings, and support from users, so we can’t offer a free routing API. However, if you do want to use our mapping and routing, drop us a line and we can chat.
If you’re looking for custom development work on cycle routing or cartography, our editor Richard Fairhurst would be delighted to talk to you. If you are looking for an off-the-shelf UK cycle routing API, we recommend you talk to the lovely people at CycleStreets. If you are looking for map tiles, talk to the equally nice people at Thunderforest.