Author Topic: Just Say No To Towpaths!  (Read 2154 times)

clarion

  • Tyke
Just Say No To Towpaths!
« on: October 09, 2017, 02:20:25 pm »
Not a problem I've faced before, but, now I am in the Venice of North Europe, I have problems routefinding, since both Google Maps and my Garmin Edge 600 both like to go via towpaths (some of which do not actually exist :( ).  These paths are always muddy, and likely to get worse, slow, and not suitable for riding between work sites.

Is there any way I can set a preference so I can avoid canals and the ridiculous racetrack roads round here?

Any advice gratefully received.
Getting there...

Basil

  • Um....err......oh bugger!
  • Help me!
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2017, 02:27:42 pm »
Sorry, but I found that the only way was lots of exploratory rides.  Over many years.
Quote from: Kim
And remember that friends who organise things on Facebook aren't proper friends anyway.

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2017, 02:42:42 pm »
Ask Kim to do a Netherton tunnels Ride.   You'll be happy on the local towpaths after that!   :D

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2017, 03:14:09 pm »
Tell the Garmin you're in a car, or preferably a 'delivery' vehicle.

Basil's right, though.  He's explored a great many canals.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2017, 03:20:51 pm »
If I set it to car, I end up on the dual carriageways :(
Getting there...

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2017, 03:35:15 pm »
OS maps or similar and plan your own route? Or maybe cycle.travel, which always takes a tarmac route by preference but is also A-road averse.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2017, 04:17:40 pm »
Have you tried cyclestreets.net? Their route planner gives three options:fastest / quietest / balanced.

Not sure if "balanced" defaults to prefer paved surfaces, but even if it's not set up that way explicitly, it might tend toward the sort of route you are after.

frankly frankie

  • I kid you not
    • Virtual Alps
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2017, 04:26:51 pm »
If I set it to car, I end up on the dual carriageways :(

Nevertheless, that is the best option if you want to avoid unsurfaced tracks.
Obviously, you need to exercise judgement on the ground, on whether to use any particular road or not, just as you do with muddy tracks.
"This is a complex subject, with a need for more than one highlighter pen."

Basil

  • Um....err......oh bugger!
  • Help me!
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2017, 04:30:12 pm »
Basil's right, though.  He's explored a great many canals.

 :facepalm:
Probably best not to inspect them as thoroughly as i did on occasion.   :hand:
Quote from: Kim
And remember that friends who organise things on Facebook aren't proper friends anyway.

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2017, 04:30:47 pm »
This is the sort of reason why I ended up putting a map clip on the front of my bike.
<i>Marmite slave</i>

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2017, 05:59:25 pm »
To every question there is a solution.

You can avoid muddy towpaths AND gain the quieter and less busy canal routes:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLboyOqi6R8" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLboyOqi6R8</a>

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2017, 10:51:42 pm »
The Oregon has custom avoidances for the alternative routing types (sufficient to shake a small stick at), so it really comes down to how the roads are flagged. "Unpaved" and "Narrow Trails" are the cycle specific ones. Alternatively and possibly more reliably is Motoring, with avoid set on dual carriageway and motorways.

Does it sound as if I'm recommending? I'm not, I think its routing is shit, anyhow.

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2017, 06:46:14 am »
The Oregon has custom avoidances for the alternative routing types (sufficient to shake a small stick at), so it really comes down to how the roads are flagged. "Unpaved" and "Narrow Trails" are the cycle specific ones. Alternatively and possibly more reliably is Motoring, with avoid set on dual carriageway and motorways.

Does it sound as if I'm recommending? I'm not, I think its routing is shit, anyhow.

The problem is that the original mapping data is very detailed and the Ordnance Survey has multiple roads and track designations



When the data is used for SatNAvs, this is simplified and these smaller groups collated into bigger groups.

The OS has "yellow roads" at both generally greater than 4 m wide and less than 4 m wide, put these as simply "yellow roads" on a SatNAve and you can see the problem
This is the reason why you get the lorry on a bridleway, a cycle track on a main road etc, simply because of the way the roads are grouped to save data

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2017, 10:08:21 am »
Interesting.

*goes to look at Edge Touring...

Btw, thank you to the Movers for putting this thread in a more sensible place.
Getting there...

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2017, 10:31:43 am »
Ask Kim to do a Netherton tunnels Ride.   You'll be happy on the local towpaths after that!   :D
At least Netherton has towpaths. Try Wast Hills. Or Dudley, IIRC. Anyone who'd tried cycling through them would be very happy on towpaths.
"A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Type-Writer Girl, 1897

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2017, 11:14:50 am »
The problem is that the original mapping data is very detailed and the Ordnance Survey has multiple roads and track designations

When the data is used for SatNAvs, this is simplified and these smaller groups collated into bigger groups.
SatNav doesn't generally have to have anything to do with the OS, unless you've paid to use the 1:50k or 1:25k maps as a background, and even then the routing data is completely separate from what you see on the screen.
The maps were originally created by either Navteq (used by Garmin, as City Navigator) or TeleAtlas (TomTom), though both companies have since been bought out. They used their own international idea of road classifications, based more on what a road looked like than official classifications.
The alternative is mapping based on OpenStreetMap, and there the road classifications are whatever the person who added the map thought, as amended by anyone else who disagreed with them. The same applies to the surface for paths and tracks, except that there frequently isn't any value given.

For avoiding both major roads and unsurfaced towpaths, probably the best option is to use a version of OpenStreetMap that used road classes that have been suitably fiddled with, such as those from VeloMap.org, and pay attention about the routing option instructions.
You will still be at the mercy of missing or inaccurate classifications on the OpenStreetMap data though.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2017, 12:29:44 pm »
Interesting.

*goes to look at Edge Touring...

I've been playing with one of Cycleman's Edge Tourings (trying to get to the bottom of a battery life problem[1], which seems to be software-related rather than an actual fault with the battery).  Coming from an eTrex[2] its routing seems eccentric to say the least.  It seems to pick roads that meet some Garmin engineer's idea of what constitutes a decent bike ride.  On the few local routes I've tried it seems to add silly amounts of distance in order to use a combination of cyclepaths and rat-runs[3], rather than main roads (fair enough) or hilly back streets (hmm).  I expect it does a better job in less urban areas.

I tried feeding it an Openfietsmap map, but that just resulted in nonsense routing.

The round-trip routing feature is a nice touch, if you're in the habit of letting your GPS receiver send you on a magical mystery tour.

And of course it does annoying Edgy things like have an internal battery and "auto-pause", but that's the nature of the beast.  The outdoor models are a much better fit for the way I tend to cycle, but YMMV.


[1] He says he's only getting 4 hours of life from it.  I've only managed that by getting it stuck in a recalculation loop, but the 7-9 hours I've got from it when not navigating (with various backlight settings etc) seems underwhleming too.
[2] With City Navigator maps, left to its own devices the Etrex will generally pick a reasonably quick route that uses nasty main roads and completely disregards hills.
[3] To be fair, the Birmingham equivalent of Queitways ended up using the same rat-runs, likely for similar reasons - they look like sensible cycling route if you only have a map and are completely unaware of the traffic-enraging effects of parked cars, speed cushions and pedestrian refuges.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2017, 12:59:28 pm »
It seems to pick roads that meet some Garmin engineer's idea of what constitutes a decent bike ride. 
To my mind this is a good reason to plan your own routes or at least to take any computer generated routes with a pinch of looking at. You might possibly be able to teach the routing your personal preference of main road, towpath, flat, hilly, whatever, but you almost certainly wont teach it that your preference varies according to purpose, time, place, weather, mood...
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2017, 09:40:39 am »
Hard to plan your own routes in a new area with unfamiliar topography which can jump up and bite you!
Getting there...

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2017, 10:42:29 am »
Hard to plan your own routes in a new area with unfamiliar topography which can jump up and bite you!
That's what proper OS maps are for.

I'm familiar enough with the local area (anywhere within day ride distance) that OSM on an Etrex is fine, but I'm toying with the idea of an OS50k Oregon for my next GPS.
(I don't generally load predefined routes, but just use it as a live view map and invent the route as I go along)

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2017, 02:05:49 pm »
I've tried an 'offsite backup' of the OS50k maps on my eTrex.  It's a nice idea, but it's almost useless in practice.  It's a bitmap, so only works at relatively low levels of zoom, preferably displayed north-up so they text isn't inverted.  You don't get enough detail to make things like junction decisions accurately, while the extreme tunnel vision of the small screen and glacial panning means you don't get a proper sense of the surrounding area either.

My preferred approach is City Navigator with a contour overlay on the eTrex, and OS mapping in Viewranger on an Android device (it works nicely on a tablet) to refer to for physical features or a bigger picture for just-in-time[1] planning.


[1] You can also plot a Route using Viewranger on Android from the comfort of your tent/cafe and transfer this to the Garmin with the appropriate cable.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2017, 02:36:56 pm »
I presume a big part of the problem Clarion faces is that he's got to visit new places regularly in the course of work, rather than having a regular commute. In which case... I don't know really, other than trying various routing apps and strategies to find one that works best, but in time presumably the places will become familiar and the routes known.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #22 on: October 11, 2017, 05:02:15 pm »
Exactly that!  My commute is fine.  Rural part via OS maps (and knowing the area); urban by poking around Google Maps.  But I have been let down a few times by the Garmin:

1. Commute from station to work, insisted there was a usable towpath.  Even in the relative dry, it was soggy, slow, and disappeared
B. Heading on a route which should have been a simple scoot downhill and a short bit of my regular commute, I was taken over a ridiculous hill
iii. On my way to a meeting, I was taken round the Erdington bypass (and over another unnecessary hill) (in the rain) instead of a short flat direct route from the station.

Trying to find potential commutes from where I am likely to be living in a few months time is hampered by Google Maps trying to put me onto one of a great many towpaths...

I still have to find the Birmingham HQ, but I think that won't be hard when it comes to it.  It's just the ad hoc site meetings...

Ah well...
Getting there...

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #23 on: October 11, 2017, 05:21:47 pm »
I used to use a route from Silly Oak to a friend's house in Erdington as a test of maps/routing.  It's particularly challenging, because you've got to cross Birmingham, which means either horrible roads with Big Scary Roundabouts, or COR and taking your chances with the Aston ASBO Geese and Silly Sustrans Gates on the towpath.  There isn't really a good answer (other than not to go to Erdington in the first place).

Google seems to give sensible towpath-based answers, but needs a lot of persuading to avoid them.

There was a time when my eTrex would crash attempting to find a route, presumably due to OSM glitches and lack of memory.  It currently seems to favour a curious outer ring road route.

Cyclestreets manages to come up with more-or-less the road route I'd actually use (which involves very careful navigation of a Big Scary Roundabout so as not to end up on the Aston Expressway), and a route using NCN5 and the Grand Onion Canal which would be the one favoured by the experienced yet traffic averse Brummie cyclist.

Strava has a winning answer at the moment.  It weights roads according to actual use by cyclists, which makes for a very powerful tool, as long as your preferences are in line with those of the average Strava user:  There's a strong roadie/commuter bias, but that does make for reasonable on-road routes if you're not scared of traffic.

The sensible option is probably to take the train.   :-\
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Phil W

Re: Just Say No To Towpaths!
« Reply #24 on: October 14, 2017, 04:34:39 pm »
For avoiding both major roads and unsurfaced towpaths, probably the best option is to use a version of OpenStreetMap that used road classes that have been suitably fiddled with, such as those from VeloMap.org, and pay attention about the routing option instructions.
You will still be at the mercy of missing or inaccurate classifications on the OpenStreetMap data though.

Which is precisely what I do.

I take the raw OSM data from http://download.geofabrik.de/.

I use the free Mapuploader 4 (http://pinns.co.uk/osm/mapuploader.html) to create the GMAPSUPP files and load into Basecamp. This is a GUI front end to Mkgmap which is also free.

This processes the OSM data combined with the rules you choose for converting it into a Garmin format for Basecamp and / or your GPS.  I have my own set of rules (called style rules by Mkgmap) which I tweak from time to time.  You can tweak the road, bridleway, towpath, cycle route preferences by choosing what "road classification" and "speed" to make them  and also marking whether they are rout-able by pedestrian, bike, car, horse etc.

The result is stuff like this.



The routing is happy with a cycle route off road but tarmac'd (solid red line in centre of yellow) but avoids the cycle route off road (red dashes on yellow) and not tarmac'd. You can choose the cycle off road and not tarmac'd by clicking on it direct if you like. The red line elsewhere on the maps is a cycle route that goes along a road.



Then for a main trunk road or A road it will avoid them like the plague unless you click along them. So it would be a rare circumstance it would route you along them.



Of course sometimes a canal, such as this one in the Venice of the north might be the best option to get past a trunk road depending on the time of year even if not tarmac.