OpenStreetMap UCL mapping party

On the afternoon of Friday 2nd March I was at the UCL mapping party for the MSc students on a development planning course. In a similar style to Andy Allan on various previous occasions, I found it pretty interesting to see the various issues that the students came across when starting to use OpenStreetMap data for their course work.

Here’s a list of things that people had a problem with:

  1. If there is an error loading an invalid GPS trace into Potlatch 2, then Potlatch 2 just stalled during the startup rather than displaying a useful error message and continuing to load.
  2. Many of the users when working in advanced mode managed to enter a value, and with the way that they clicked somewhere else before entering the value, which meant that the key would disappear and confuse users.
  3. It would be nice to be able to give a nice notice when a user enters a key or value in sentence case when lower case would be expected.
  4. It is very hard to select a node at the end of a way.
  5. There was confusion about the 3 editor options in the menu that drops down from the Edit tab.
  6. The lack of accessibility mapping features in the presets made it more difficult to get them up to speed quickly.
  7. Building entrances are missing from the presets.
  8. How are people supposed to know to shift click to add a node in the middle of a way.
  9. Potlach2 can’t handle more than one major feature at a time, for example a building and a place of worship.
  10. No highway crossing preset.
  11. Easier setup of custom Potlach 2 with custom MapCSS. Maybe some form of GUI to create those files?
  12. How do you take a scanned map and put it as a background?
  13. Many people had questions around why the detailed data they were adding wasn’t showing on the map, for example why were disabled parking spaces not showing up with a specific disable parking space symbol in Potlatch 2.
  14. The help font size in Potlatch 2 is a bit on the small side, thus can be difficult to read for some users.
  15. After creating a GPS trace in an app on the mobile, how to get it and the photos into the editor.

2012 New Year Fireworks in London

Last night I went to the centre of London near the South Bank to watch the fireworks for the New Year celebrations. In the past I have taken lots of photos of the fireworks, so this year I decided to try some video instead. When started using my camcorder, a Canon LEGRIA HF M32, I realised that my Panasonic Lumix TZ20 had a wider angle lens, so I was able to get much more into the same shot. The Canon camcorder on the other hand has a bigger lens, thus is able to cope with low light conditions better. I decided to create two videos. They both take high definition video at 1080p in the AVCHD format, thus I’ll let you compare the results below.

Pansonic Lumix TZ20:


Prior to the fireworks I took a few photos of the London Eye and the crowds:

Afore I headed out I had some filling haggis, neeps and tatties for dinner:


Went into one of my jacket pockets that I’ve not been in in ages and found some #openstreetmap stickers that I thought I’d run out of…

Went into one of my jacket pockets that I’ve not been in in ages and found some #openstreetmap stickers that I thought I’d run out of…

Cycling along Stratford High Street

Recently an article appeared on the LCC website about people being fined for cycling on the pavement of Stratford High Street where the Greenway is now diverted due to Olympic and Crossrail works. I decided to take a closer look on the ground on Tuesday evening to see if it was valid for people to cycle there.

Heading eastbound along the Greenway diversion when you hit Stratford High Street next to the Porsche garage, there is a sign directing cyclists an pedestrians to turn left. There is absolutely nothing there to say that you can’t cycle on the pavement there, it’s the kind of sign that suggests that you are allowed to cycle off road and on the pavement.

Continuing along the road to the pedestrian (not toucan) crossing you have a nice wide pavement where there is plenty of space for considerate cycling. The fact that there is not a toucan crossing suggests that cycling potentially isn’t allowed, but why isn’t there a toucan crossing there? It is where the Greenway, a cycling and walking corridor, crosses a major road. Normally I would expect a toucan crossing to be implemented in a location like this to minimise  inconvenience to cyclists, and promote the cycle route more. Also when heading in the eastbound direction there is no way to get to the Greenway without going along some of the pavement.

Once you cross the road and continue towards the Greenway you pass under some scafolding which has a sign with information on it about the work that is happening. It shows a map of the orignal closed route, and the diversion, then in the small print it states that cycling isn’t permitted on the diversion. What is the point of a diversion from a cycling route that doesn’t allow you to cycle along the diversion?

Heading in the westbound direction from the end of the Greenway, there are no signs telling cyclists to dismount. There is the sign above that I very much doubt people are going to read as it’s narrow and the route guides you fairly nicely without the sign to the pedestrian crossing. In this direction I could see any signage that suggests that the wide pavement allows or doesn’t allow cycling until you get just past the junction at the end with the Porsche garage.

Finally there is the TfL official map which shows that section of Stratford High Street as being a shared use cyclepath. (Thanks go to Diamond Geezer for pointing out their availability).

I feel that it is unfair to be fining cyclists when there is contradictory signage and design of the diversion that doesn’t make clear that cyclists should dismount. Secondly assuming that those who are cycling are doing so in a manner and speed that is appropriate for the slower moving pedestrians, especially considering the alternative road conditions that require large diversions, then I don’t see any reason why they should be fined. If it is a case of cyclists going too fast for the conditions such that pedestrians are complaining then I’d hope that we would be able to manage some education, hopefully with some better success than happened recently in Bristol.

WordPress London Meetup – 17 November 2011

On Thursday 17th there was the November WordPress London meetup in the Headshift | Dachis Group offices. I recorded the 3 presentations and have uploaded them to YouTube:

WordPress News by Chris Adams

Chris gave a roundup of the latest changes and releases in the WordPress community. [Updated video with typo in title fixed.]


WordPress Site Structure for SEO by David Bain

David gave an introduction to setting up WordPress for good SEO practice.


Using Custom Post Types by Keith Devon

A technical talk by Keith on how to create a new custom post types.


Cycling: Belgium Trip September 2011

On the weekend of the 9th until the 11th of September I organised a cycle trip to Belgium as part of the LCC/Bromley Cyclists. There was quite a lot of interest, however due to various things turning up at work, and schools going back, only one other person came along, who I’d never met before.

On the Thursday late morning I headed out to cycle as much of the way to Dover as I could manage within a reasonable time without tiring myself too much on my own. I randomly chose my route to some degree as I went, with as little help from my GPS map as possible. On the way I poped into Bromley Cycle Repair to have a little natter with a couple of friends and a lovely cup of tea.

When I got to just before Rainham I decided to take the train to Canterbury as otherwise I’d arrive in Canterbury far too late to be able to meetup with Gregory Williams, an OSMer and local cycle campaigner that I hadn’t met in ages. He gave me an interesting tour along a new cycle path out to the West of Canterbury, that I had walked part of the way along a couple of years back with another friend. After dinner I headed back on the train down to Dover to the guest house that I was staying in for the night, so that I could add an extra day of cycling, and also not have to get up too early for a train to Dover. I cycled a total of about 50 miles on the first day.

On Friday morning after breakfast I headed down to Dover Priory station to meet my cycling companion for the trip for the first time, before heading down to the docks to check-in and get on the ferry. The ferry journey was pretty uneventful. We set off north up the coast. I took a little diversion off the routes that I have used in the past and went a little further inland and found this lovely cycle path that ran parallel to the main road, however it seemed to be going too far in land for where we were going.

A little further down the road my companion had a little mechanical failure on his bike with the crank arm coming loose. We needed an allon key a size larger than either of us had. While we were stopped to take a look at the problem a French cyclist came past and took a look. He had a check to see if he had the tool that we needed, which he didn’t, he was then helpful in miming directions to us, with some help from my companion’s broken French.

We found a garage (though not the Renault one he directed us to) and managed to ask to borrow the tool needed. About 10 minutes further down the road, the same problem reappeared, so we found another garage and properly tightened it this time. We came across a Decathlon so popped in and bought the tool needed, just in case the same issue occurred again.

 Next mechanical issue was a puncture in my companion’s bike, where something had gone through the sidewall of the tyre. We stopped and changed the inner tube, then about ten minutes later he had another puncture at the point of the split in the tyre, thus we stopped again and replaced the tube. As we were pumping up the tyre, I noticed it bulging, so decided to put some cardboard from the inner tube packet inside the tyre at the split in the tire to stop it bulging. This allowed us to get the next 30 miles to Oostende until we could get a replacement tyre the following morning.

The cycle into Dunkirk is a much nicer experience than cycling in the UK as there are cycle lanes of a reasonable width most of the way, motorists are a lot more patient and closer to the town centre there are cycle paths separating you from the motor traffic. We grabbed lunch in Dunkirk from a nice little sandwich shop.

  We continued heading up the coast to our accommodation in Oostende for the next two nights. We timed it quite well for arriving in the hostel, as another cyclist had just checked-in before us, and was also looking for dinner, so once we’d parked our bikes for the night in the hostel and dumped our bags, we headed out. This guy was pretty insane with the amount that he knew about bikes, and the amount of cycling that he done. He is a Dutch postman, and was pretty shocked to hear that the Royal Mail in the UK were getting rid of bikes for their posties.

It was a pretty pleasant 65 miles that we cycled on the Friday. Route taken.

  On the Saturday after breakfast in the hostel we headed up the coast from Oostende and stopped at a Steak restaurant overlooking the beach in Zeebrugge. It was quite interesting to spot a real pub bike with beer on tap, unlike the pedibuses in London. After lunch we continued up the coast into the Netherlands until we hit the LF1, otherwise known as the North Sea Cycle Route, at which point we started following it south and headed inland towards Brugge.

 At one point just after turning onto a canal towpath I stopped to take a photo of a sign and my companion wasn’t looking where he was going crashed into the back of me breaking my chain case clip. We managed to find some elastic string on his backpack which allowed the case to be strapped together and me to continue using the case for the journey back home. After a few more days the string broke and I had to use masking tape to hold it together until I could get a replacement.

As we were cycling south it suddenly got noticeably colder, further on my companion noticed a flash of lightening. Then it started getting very dark rapidly and ahead we could see it raining. As we were passing a village on the other side of the canal the first drops of rain started. As we stood by a bridge deciding whether we should continue on to Brugge and probably get soaked or to find shelter in the village the rain started to come down more. We headed to the nearest restaurant and sat the very heavy thunderstorm out as it took half an hour to pass over us. We were very glad that we didn’t try to continue.

 From there into Brugge was pretty dry, with just the odd spots of rain. We pretty quickly found the central square to get our dinner. On sitting down and being handed the menu the waiter gave a long passage which just sounded like garbage, my companion was just nodding along going yeah, yeah, we’ll have that. I had to ask the waiter to repeat in English, and he said “Oh sorry I thought you were French”, thanks to my companion’s constant broken French whenever he was talking with the locals.

After dinner I decided that it would take too long to cycle back to the hostel that we were staying, such that we got there at a reasonable time and were still awake the following day for the cycle back to Calais. The guy behind the counter wasI cycled 57 miles on the Saturday. Saturday’s route.

Sunday was fairly uneventful. We took a more inland route for the first part back that took in some canal and part of the North Sea Cycle route. It was a very strong head wind, which I found rather tiring and found it very difficult to get any speed going along. The strong wind did mean that we ended up taking the ferry after the one that we were originally booked out, which wasn’t an issue since we had open return tickets.

Whilst we were waiting to board the ferry, we got talking to another larger group of cyclists that had been over in France for the weekend on longer cycle rides than what we done. They were surprised at the size and weight of my Dutch bike, and started a game of see who can lift it. They all found it much heavier than their own bikes, even without the panniers. They were missing a little trick in lifting things like a bike in a way such that the weight is balanced across both hands works better, so if they’d picked it up differently, it would have been easier.

We had just missed a train so had over half an hour to wait for the next one back into London due to be late evening. On the final day I had cycled about 60 miles. Sunday’s journey.

Full set of photos from the trip on Flickr

London WordPress Meetup – 28th July 2011

On Thursday there was the July 2011 London WordPress meetup in the Headshift | Dachis Group offices. I recorded the presentations and have uploaded them to YouTube:

Ice-breakers & Introductions

Introduction to WordPress by Emily Webber

Beginner Theme Development by Keith Devon

Looking Under the Hood of WordPress by Chris Adams

If you’d like to come along to future meetups, please join the London WordPress Meetup group.