Category Archives: Maps

Videos of the talks at Rome 2013

In January I was at the in Rome, and recorded most of the talks that happened. I have now uploaded those talks to YouTube for the wider community to be able to watch. Here’s the videos in the order they were recorded:

Friday 18th Jan 2013

Tariffa and problem management in Africa

A demonstration of CartoDB

World Food Programme using OpenDataKit


FOSS4G conference introduction

37 Things you didn’t know about ESRI


Topology with PostGIS

An introduction to R for spatial analysis

The OSGeo Live CD and Virtual Machines


Saturday 19th Jan 2013



A Linear Sense of Place

Updating to the latest Carto in Tile Mill when running on an Ubuntu service

Currently there are some bug fixes in the Carto code base which isn’t in the currently released Tile Mill which I was wanting to make use of. This is the commands that are needed in case someone else needs that info when running Tile Mill as an Ubuntu Service.

cd /usr/share/tilemill
sudo npm install carto@latest

If that fails, read the error messages as some files may be in the way and npm isn’t wanting to overwrite them:

sudo rm /usr/share/tilemill/node_modules/.bin/mml2json.js
sudo rm /usr/share/tilemill/node_modules/.bin/carto

You then also need to restart Tile Mill, which if you are using the Ubuntu service, you can use the following command.

sudo restart tilemill

My Talk at State of the Map Scotland 2012

This year at State of the Map Scotland 2012 I spoke about the ITO Map tool to highlight the more detailed OpenStreetMap data available, which generally isn’t shown on maps. I’ve mentioned a few other services that I find interesting that maybe aren’t so well known. This blog post is a summary of that talk. You can click the map images to see a bigger image.

State of the Map Scotland

First up, was the building classifications and building addressing ITO Map layers. It’s really useful to have address information on buildings as then you can find the specific address rather than just the street.

A lot of the buildings in OpenStreetMap at the moment are simply marked as building=yes, (94% of buildings don’t specify the building type), however if the buildings are marked with what they are used for then more interesting maps showing the building classification can be created, and you have information that can be useful for planning things.

Not many people have come across a speed limit map, as it’s very rare that this information has been readily available until people started adding it to OpenStreetMap. The ITO Map layer is great for showing the current data, and also highlighting where more data is needed, particularly residential streets and smaller roads. Most major roads in the UK already have speed limit data.

Next up I showed the Highway lanes map, which gives an idea of how busy or wide a road is. This data can be used by navigation devices to give advice on where to change lane on approach to a junction if it is required for example. I’ve also had someone suggest that it could be used by pedestrian and cycle campaigners to show how easy it is to cross a road, especially when used in combination with a map showing the pavements/sidewalks.

Having the barriers in an area mapped can be useful in some cases as it can for example explain that two roads don’t join due to a wall being in the way, thus someone who is looking at the data remotely thinking there is a connectivity error won’t try and fix it.

Barrier information is used by routing engines, for example CycleStreets will avoid  taking you across some types of barrier.

Many of the ITO Map layers are specifically aimed at helping OpenStreetMap Mappers to improve the tagging. For example the Building entrance fixup map layer highlights maps that are based on an older style of tagging building entrances. There was a change from simply say that there was an entrance to being able to specify the type of entrance. It’s also useful when people add other info like whether that particular entrance to the building is wheelchair accessible, which can then lead to wheelchair specific routing, and routing to a suitable building entrance, rather than the opposite side of the building which might mean a 5 minute walk.

How good are you at counting? Having the number of steps in a staircase can mean that routing engines can avoid long sets of steps for example. This could be useful for elderly  people who struggle walking up or down large flights of steps. I’m not sure OSM has come up with a consensus yet as to which direction is up or down, so that the routing engine could for example say go down 10 steps, walk 500 metres turn right and up 50 steps.

CycleStreets take the view that dismounting and walking your bike up or down a few steps may be preferable to huge diversion.

Another useful map for walking campaigners is the map showing where the pavements/sidewalks are. This more detailed information of roads is probably not so useful in towns and cities, but more so in more rural areas, where pedestrians will often be expected to walk along side motor vehicles travelling at 40 or more miles per hour, which can be a pretty daunting experience. There can be parts of towns and cities where there are urban motorways where there is no pavement, or only one on one side of the road.

The OpenCycleMap has shown cycle parking in OpenStreetMap for many years now, however it doesn’t highlight the data in OSM that is lacking the capacity of each cycle parking place so that you know how big the cycle park is. The ITO Map of cycle parking specifically highlights data that could be improved with a red dot or area. Gregory Williams from Spokes East Kent has created a heat map of cycle parking.

Do you know where your nearest cash machine is and does it charge a fee?

OpenStreetMap has some data for the ATMs, however I’m sure there are more out there.



Is your local school mapped with buildings, and the schools grounds? ITO have a map for the schools.

Next up I showed some of the Vector Map District comparison maps.

I started off with the main roads VMD comparison highlighting that it can help with showing where there may be some differences that need fixed. Sometimes the Ordnance Survey data sources can be out of date, thus shouldn’t be copied without thinking. The example above highlights the new M74 extension, which opened since the OS VMD data was released. The map highlights a lot of discrepancies in the tertiary roads (what used to be commonly C numbered).

Similarly for the railways, OpenStreetMap is more precise, having more railway types defined, and also having new rail lines, such as the Shotts Line between Edinburgh and Glasgow now open.

Recently at work I’ve been looking at what interesting things that I can do with ITO Maps. It turns out that having a random colour based on the road number works well at showing where there road numbers changing where I wouldn’t expect them, or thin black lines showing where there is a missing road number (or ref in terms of OSM tagging). Someone has gone and fixed up most of the references that were missing in Central Scotland since the talk.

Similarly for railways you can easily see where they change name. In many cases the rail line doesn’t have a name.

Or how about random waterway names? Do some of the names change unexpecedly?

Finally I covered various questions and highlighting other things from the floor. ITO’s OSM Analysis tool is useful for spotting differences between OpenStreetMap and the Ordnance Survey’s OS Locator dataset. OSM Mapper is great for showing what has happened recently in an area, or highlighting the types of data that has been mapped in the area.

ITO are able to create new map layers to support the validation of OpenStreetMap data. The best ways to get in touch are to either add a message to the ITO Map Ideas wiki page where it can be publicly discussed, or to email

Some other OSM tools that you may be interested in:

Who did it? which highlights recent changes that have been happening, and whether you should take a closer look based on some heuristics.

OSMstats shows charts about the OSM data and how it’s changing over time with daily updates.

Richard Mann has come up with cycle map style that is distinctly different from the original OpenCycleMap. It highlights main roads that have residential roads along them as they are likely to be”nicer” for cycling along compared to more rural main roads.

And finally you may not have yet come across the Live OSM Edits site. It can be quite addictive to sit and watch where there are edits happening in the world.

Bulk loading data into OpenStreetMap

Some of you who were at WhereCampUK, Nottingham in November 2010, may recognise the discussion in this blog post as it is based on my talk there.

Since the early days of OpenStreetMap, people have been bulk importing data into the database. There have been various issues with many of the previous import methods, which I’ll go through, before explaining the latest methodologies to be employed.

First up was the public domain TIGER data in the US, which is produced by the US Census Bureau. It varies hugely in quality from county to county and was seen as the only way to start the mapping in the US. The prospect of the data being imported delayed many people from starting to create the map in the US. However with the data not being great, it is difficult to improve the data as a newcomer, compared to using clean osm data.

There are on going projects to try and fixup the Tiger data. These were kick started by the CloudMade London dev team when it was realised that you could not route from one side of the US to the other, like you could in Europe. Tools were built to help highlight connectivity problems and make the road network routable.

After a Freedom of Information request the Royal Mail released the rough location of all of their post boxes (they didn’t have the exact locations). Matthew Somerville built an app for making it easier to locate all the post boxes and tick them off the list. The post box data from OpenStreetMap is regularly imported and checked against the list of post boxes supplied by the Royal Mail based on their reference number with the lists updated to show which post boxes we still don’t know the exact locations of. Some mappers have gone and made sure that whole postcode districts have all their post boxes in OpenStreetMap. Over time the novelty has worn off when playing the game of hunt the post box, or it has become an distance issue to try and find some more.

Naptan data is the public transport access point database in the UK. It has been generated by local councils using a GPS on the ground. This means that the data doesn’t have any issues with copyright from the ordnance survey, which they would have if they were positioned using ordnance survey maps. The Naptan data has been imported region by region into OpenStreetMap. There have been a few communities who have taken the checking of the Naptan data seriously to ensure that OSM has every bus stop in the correct position. They have often been in contact with local councils or the appropriate Traveline department to improve the original Naptan data where there are errors.

Novam is a tool that was built to make it easier to see which imported bus stops had been edited with various data added. A few different styles were generated as mappers came up with a consistent way that the data should be. It proved a very useful tool when working with local authorities, as they could see why OSM was valuable, and it highlighted the appropriate data. The tool is primarily used by mappers to see where they need to improve the OSM data.

When the Ordnance Survey Open Data was released on April 1st 2010, there was some discussion about how the data should be used. The consensus is that the data should not be blindly imported, rather local knowledge should be used to update the OpenStreetMap data. There are cases where the Ordnance Survey data that has been released is already out of date due to changes on the ground since the data was last collected or released. There have been cases where people have changed the correct OpenStreetMap data for the out of date or incorrect Ordnance Survey data. This is one of the reasons why you need to have local knowledge to be able to get good OSM data. Some tools have been implemented so that OSMers can improve the completeness of their dataset based on OSM. These tools are being used actively to increase the OSM coverage and accuracy.

The Bike Shop Locator was built by Andy Allan and myself as a tool to show a different method of importing data into OpenStreetMap for cases where there is significant portion of the data already in OSM, some of the data being imported may be inaccurate as the shop on the ground either doesn’t exist or has since changed name, and all of the data only having an approximate location to within a post code. The automation of the ticking off of this list is somewhat hard due to the fuzzy matching required for the names and other attributes. Also when visiting an area again to check to see exactly where the bike shop is you’ll spot other things in the OSM data that needs to be edited in the area.

WhereCampUK, November 2010 location:

For the presentation, I flipped between the following web pages in different tabs in my web browser:

Cycling: Calais to Oostende and back

I recently headed over to France for another weekend cycling trip. This time I stayed the night in Oostende, Belgium, so that I could cover more distance in the trip on the continent. This time I headed over using SeaFrance instead of P&O since they were significantly cheaper when returning the following day, rather than the same day. I took a coastal route heading out, and a more inland route on the way back for some variety.

I found it interesting to use many of the Belgian cycling facilities, including the cycle node networks and the cycle paths. The cycle node networks are quite different to the UK cycle network routes. Rather than having a route that often runs a long distance, you have fairly short distance routes between numbered points. Between the points you get signs directing you to another point. When you look behind, you’ll see directions to the point that you have just come from. This seems to work better in town/built-up areas, as it gives more of a mesh network, rather than a spoke network that the route network in the UK tends to promote.


It was really nice to see cycle lanes nicely run on to the pavement as a cycle path; or priority over other junctions; or being routed behind bus stops, so that cyclists don’t need to swerve out and merge with the rest of the traffic when buses stop.


When I was cycling along the LF1 beside a canal, I seen people playing some form of volleyball in canoes on the canal.


Just as I was about to leave the last town in Belgium on the way back to Calais, I was flagged down by a group of 3 students who were looking for directions to get on to the North Sea Cycle Route. Having seen 2 or 3 signs for the route, I was able to give them some pointers about cycling in Belgium, as it is a bit different to the UK, and point them in the right direction. They did have maps based on car-centric Google maps showing the route and were thinking about riding on the UK equivalent of trunk or primary roads, however in Belgium (and other European countries), you are often not allowed to cycle on those busy roads, rather you are meant to use the adjacent or nearby cycle paths.

When I was entering the data from my journey, I was chatting on IRC to one of the local OSM mappers, so that I could get a better idea of how the data should be entered. I learned that the North Sea Cycle Route is actually signed on the ground as LF1, though there does appear to be a coastal and inland strand of it. I am still a little confused by it being signed as LF1 in some places and having North Sea Cycle Route signs in other places, and nothing linking the two on the ground.



P1100598While waiting for the ferry in Calais I had a nice chat with one of the motorcyclists and car ferry passenger. On the ferry over I had my dinner. I had pre-paid for it as you get 10% off the cost of the meal deal. On arriving in Dover there was a nice sunset over the harbour.

Overall it was a total of 140 miles over two days, 125 miles of which was on the continent. I’ve uploaded the photos from my trip to Flickr.

Edinburgh OpenStreetMap meetup on Tuesday

This Tuesday 8th December 2009, there will be another Edinburgh OpenStreetMap meetup. Unfortunately I won’t yet be able to enjoy another cycle out along the coast from Edinburgh to map some more of North Berwick, and return back to London on the Caledonian Sleeper. Not forgetting the significantly more people who came to the meetup than I originally expected. It’s great to see such great enthusiasm for a regular meetup in another UK City.

When I was buying the sleeper tickets for the return leg of the last meetup, I found that phoning got a better deal than buying the tickets online and picking them up online.

Cycling: London to Dover via Margate and Ramsgate

Yesterday (Saturday) I done one of my rather large February cycles. I didn’t go quite as far as last year’s 150 mile cycle, though I still done more than the 70-100 miles I was anticipating doing. In total it was about 115 miles (the last 4 miles were from Bromley South station home). The total journey time to Dover was about 12 hours. When I set out I decided that my camera would stay at the bottom of the pannier, otherwise I’d spend too much time taking photos, rather than getting somewhere.

The route I took was heading out fairly direct to Faversham, via Bromley, Swanley, unmapped Cobham, Rchester, Rainham, and Sittingbourne. After Faversham I headed to the coast all the way round to Ramsgate, where I hit the A256, and then the A2 to race down the road to Dover to get the last direct train back to Bromley South.

I hadn’t prepared quite enough with my GPS tracking. For those who don’t know I use a private beta of TrackMyJourney on my Sony Ericsson K850i with a bluetooth GPS for most of my location logging and mapping. I know that my main 5Hz bluetooth GPS lasts only about 8 hours, so I got my older, less reliable on cities, GPS partially charged, but not enough to last until the phone ran out of power. After I ran out of power I was using a fast direct route, so it was easy to get the route’s distance using CloudMade’s routing. I did have a GT-11 GPS as a backup, however the 16MB card is too small for my extravagant cycle journeys, though the battery did last for the whole journey. Ah well, couple of lessons learnt.

It’s been great to be able to have live re-routing over the web,  constantly updating my ETA, and the ability download map tiles live, thus able to have the cycle map wherever I am within mobile phone signal range.

I did find a part of the NCN1 to the east of Sittingbourne, where the route took you into a pile of trash at the side of a traveller camp, with no further signage.

I really enjoyed cycling along the coast, I found it quite rare to be able to go for so far that close to the coast, because usually you have private properties next to the coast for much more of the coastline. There was one place where I saw a sign telling cyclists to slow down and give way, where you would normally just get the irritating and unnecessary “cyclists dismount” sign. I really should have taken a photo of it, but then would I have had to go via London Bridge?

In the future I’ll hopefully get around to cycling from Margate to Folkstone at a more leisurely pace to be able to take in the scenery.

New Year cycling

With the extra eating over Christmas, I’ve started out on my (evening) cycling again. On the 1st of January I headed out East and got to Rochester before getting on the train home. On the way near to Ebbsfleet International I found a rather interesting sign that I just had to take a picture of.


After uploading it to Flickr, I check that I had geocoded it right, by looking at the map on Yahoo. I got very confused. It seems that Flickr need to start using OpenStreetMap data for London. Yahoo don’t that the new Channel Tunnel Rail link and some of the new roads around Ebbsfleet International, though they do have the location of Ebbsfleet International. Compare Yahoo with OpenStreetMap.

UPDATE: Looking further it seems that Flickr are using older map tiles compared to, but appear to be the same tiles as used in Yahoo UK


On the way I was testing out some routing using osm data, and found a few data bugs. One very important one being a primary road that goes through a tunnel, which doesn’t allow cyclist, pedestrians, nor horse drawn carriages, hence routing cyclists through it shouldn’t be done.

On the 2nd day of the year, I took the train down to Caterham, which is just inside the M25, and then cycled back up mostly using the NCN21. On passing through New Addington, I got a little mapping done on the way, mostly new roads that are completely missing from OSM, there is a lot of mapping required down there. Anyone up for a mapping party?