CycleStreets is launching a funding drive to enable routing improvements and a large number of feature requests to be undertaken.
Our key target is for £90k to enable funding to pay for two full-time development positions for 18 months, plus smaller miscellaneous funds. With this, we believe the project will then be self-sustaining.
By way of brief background, CycleStreets is the UK-wide cycle journey planning system. Users can plan routes from A-B anywhere in the UK, receiving three route solutions (the quietest and fastest routes and a balance between the two). Routes can then be printed or exported to a handlebar-mounted device. A range of new mobile apps, enabling route planning on-the-go are already using our routing services.
Over a third-of-a-million routes have been planned on the system, and usage rates are increasing. This amounts to 3.85 million km of route planning, equivalent to cycling round the earth 100 times.
CycleStreets is set up on a not-for-profit basis, and is free for people to use. However, this does not mean that it costs nothing to run.
Unlike large mapping companies, or the government's Transport Direct project, we do not have large financial backing. All funding so far has come from tiny grants of up to £5k, from pieces of consultancy work, and donations from users of the site.
The natural channel for funding should be from national bodies such as Cycling England. But they have an allegiance to the Transport Direct project which, despite its much greater costs, is (we believe) only serving about one-tenth the number of routes as CycleStreets. It is disappointing that so far they have not finally supported a community-run project that is helping break down barriers to getting more people cycling, more often, although we remain in talks, and the data collection aspect of their project is something that OpenStreetMap (and thus CycleStreets) may be able to benefit from.
Nonetheless, CycleStreets needs to stand on its own two feet and move to a fully-funded model.
CycleStreets does not currently pay full salaries to the core developers, meaning that only limited time for improvements is available. We have to survive and so have other jobs that take up our time. With full-time development staff, CycleStreets could reach its full potential much more quickly.
CycleStreets is run on a low-cost basis. We do have neither software licensing costs nor data licensing costs - the data is obtained freely from the excellent OpenStreetMap (OSM) project.
Our key requirements are development time, particularly for the core routing engine, and hardware costs (i.e. the webservers which run the site).
In total, £130k.
With 18 months of two full-time-equivalent development roles, we would be able to:
This list is based on themes which continually come through in feedback reports.
Although in the longer term, the open-source model of a development team is where we wish to be at, routing work is complex and requires often weeks of solid, concentrated work. This makes it difficult to get volunteers, as they are more likely only to be able to 'dip in' to the code; the latter is useful for a range of smaller improvements, but more limited in terms of our core competency of endeavouring to create world-class cycle routing.
We would welcome recommendations of people who could undertake this work, if our funding drive reaches its target.
In terms of funding streams we see several potential sources towards our main £90k target:
Advertising/co-branding is not listed here, as we feel this would weaken the credibility of the site, distract users (by definition, advertising is intended to take users away from the site) and would not raise significant levels of funding.
In terms of income prior to this funding drive, the project has obtained:
These funds have enabled much to be done, but are not on a scale to enable full-time developers to be taken on for a determined period of 18 months.
We are also in talks with two cycling NGOs and one governmental organisation regarding development work.
Competition in the sphere of route planning remains likely (and more route-planning availability means more cycling), but we feel that CycleStreets will always have a distinctive (and hopefully large) niche even if/when big players come on the scene.
We see CycleStreets as more than just another routing engine, but something with much more added-value. We have taken care to build up a reasonably diverse set of infrastructure (covering journey planning, infrastructure implementing the concept of crowd-sourcing of public infrastructure problem locations, and the ability to add layers to the mapping). And our key asset, detailed understanding and analysis of cyclist preferences, means we will always strive for ever-higher-quality routing.
Furthermore, we remain strongly of the view that a system with community roots and good connections to the cycling community will result in the best quality routing.
We are hard-working people whose aim is to help get more people cycling, more often. We hope we have already demonstrated that we offer a system for which there is demand.
If you can offer funding and share this aim, or have projects we can help with, please do get in touch.
CycleStreets is from CycleStreets Ltd, a UK company run on a not-for-profit basis. Company no. 06948959; Company office: CycleStreets Ltd., 80b York Street, Cambridge, CB1 2PY.