Cycling: Milton Keynes – Watford

Last Saturday I took a train from Selhurst to Milton Keynes and started cycling back home. (At the moment you can get 15% off off-peak Southern tickets when you buy them at least 2 hours before travel, online.) I’d been thinking about doing that cycle since the Milton Keynes Mapping Party back in May last year.

The first part across Milton Keynes to the Grand Union Canal, and then down to Leighton Buzzard went fairly well as the towpath is paved and some of it is part of the National Cycle Route 6. South of Leighton Buzzard however, the towpath turned to grass and for some of it mud. There were patches where it was paved nicely. There was one point the mud had got so bad I had to stop to clean the bike.

These bird didn't want to let anyone past on the pathHeading through Berkhamstead there were some birds that  really didn’t like anyone going along their path, so had to hop off the bike and walk around them.

Past the M25, and almost into Watford and I find another pile of mud in the path, so I stop to take a look at TrackMyJourney’s map viewer to see if there is an alternative route that may be better. Via the help of the OpenCycleMap (from within TMJ), I seen that there was the National Cycle Network Route 61, that hopefully would have been less muddy. About to move off and notice I had a puncture. So instead of trying to fix in the dark, with a muddy bike to hinder things, I decided the best option was to push the bike to Watford Junction station to get the train home and deal with the puncture once the mud had dried a bit, thus the mud would flake off.

Also on the way to the station pushing the bike I manage to map a couple of missing street names, post boxes, benches, bike parking and found a street name that was mis typed into OSM.

After the first attempt, I found that I had a slow puncture. It was another puncture elsewhere in the tube rather than the repair failing. It was a total of just shy of 40 miles, which is about half of the distance I was expecting to do. Considering that I’ve been doing very little cycling at the start of this year due to the bike being serviced from the accident at the end of last year, and the not so great weather, it’s not too bad. I suppose I’ll have to just postpone my annual maddly long first long cycle of the year until March. I also got a bunch of nice photos to add to the CycleStreets Photo Map, and test a new method that makes it faster to import photos from Flickr. This will mean that there will be photos of the route, when someone plans a journey that takes part of the route that I took.

OpenStreetMap Job Search Alert

As part of my recent job search I setup a few job alerts. One of which was with the keyword OpenStreetMap on CWJobs. I wasn’t expecting there to be anything coming up.

Out of the blue a job alert did appear, and it sounds rather interesting, though I have just started a new job at Headshift.

It is for a three month contract, and is asking for some quite high requirements, such as requiring to be security cleared; experienced using Ordnance Survey data; OpenLayer; Python; and optionally Mapnik; OpenStreetMap and QGIS. Based on the job description, I’m speculating that it is a contract for some government job. I’ll let you readers to speculate about the details of the job in the comments.

See a PDF of the Job Advert: 20091214-OpenStreetMap GIS Developer – CWJobs.co.uk

On a side note, I found that putting my CV on CWJobs yielded quite a high number of recruiters phoning, however the recruiters seem to all be chasing for candidates for the same handful of jobs. My current job was found through the help of the wonderful people who use twitter and directly talking to the potential employer.

GLLUG Mapping Party

Yesterday I presented to the Greater London Linux User Group (GLLUG) how to edit the OpenStreetMap data, with a short field trip. Apart from running a little late, I think it went fairly well with some good participation from the audience. Things I’d do better the next time include:

  • preparing the slides more, particularly the server side ones for this audience;
  • giving the 2 minute introduction to OpenStreetMap, as there were people who didn’t know the basics about OSM in the crowd;
  • also doing it as a lab session, rather than rushed example demonstration of the editing before being thrown out of the lecture theatre.

I have made my slides from the talk available below.

http://docs.google.com/Presentation?id=ajc2v9mk3cvb_4cf9wsthd

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.

London Critical Mass September 2008

On Friday I headed along to this Months Critical Mass. It was very strange that the Police weren’t there at all to do the corking of the junctions, and hold back any frustrated drivers. The two usual off-duty bike paramedics were there. It took a while for the mass to get used to the idea of corking the traffic themselves. There was a few times when some drivers tried to have a run at some of the cyclists, which was quite frightening. These possibly would have been less likely to happen with the bike police there. The key to preventing the drivers from being annoyed is to keep the whole ride moving all the time.

After Buckingham Palace the ride managed split in two, with both halves meeting up later. At one point we did bump into a bunch of organised roller skaters.

As the sun is setting around the time the ride starts off, so it becomes more difficult to get good photos, particularly with most people wearing reflective clothing.

Overall it turned out to be a good night without any major incident.

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Last of the London Mapping Marathon Tomorrow

Tomorrow, will be the final installment of the Summer 2008 London Mapping Marathon. We will be moving to the Fortnightly Winter 2008-9 Random Pub Meetup. Each week will be a different pub in a potentially unmapped area, for those hard core mappers out there. I’m looking for suggestions on where we could go. On the 24th December we will be going to that thingy pub at latitude 90, longitude -0.12345.

Matt Amos has started organising a mapping party in the Wembly area of London on Sunday 12th October 2008. Hopefully we will have a few weekend mapping parties, in the more outlying parts of London, over the course of the winter.

Later in October I will be going to a mapping party in Kyiv.

Baker Street/Regents Park Mapping Party

This evening there will be a mapping party in the Baker Street/Regents Park area of London. I wonder if we will beat last week’s record 15 people at the Euston mapping party. Maybe we will even get a local paper publishing a small article about the event, like the Croydon Advertiser and the Croydon Guardian done for the Croydon mapping party.

As I mentioned on the talk-gb mailing list, it is now getting dark rather early (by about 8pm), so after the next 2 parties we’ll be moving the emphasis from mapping to a more social meetup. It will still be in some random place in London, and you will still have a change to some mapping, as I doubt we will find the whole of central london completely mapped. I’m looking for your ideas of which pubs we should go. Maybe we should do a mapping pub crawl to map as many pubs as possible in one evening (or check that all the pubs in an area are already mapped)?