Range of options

Range of options

On-line services, map-making, site directions, ticketing, timetables and promotion

On-line services

There is a growing range of on-line services available to help you plan your journey. Many people are not aware of them so publicising them locally can be useful, such as on a local website or in a leaflet. There may also be specific apps you can promote, whether national ones or those covering transport operators in your local area.

For journey planning, try the following:

  • Transport Direct at www.transportdirect.info - the Government’s journey planner that covers all forms of land transport, though cycle information is currently limited
  • Google Maps - the most well known search engine provides driving directions and increasing coverage for public transport and walking
  • Walkit at walkit.com - a walking route planner for cities and some towns
  • Cyclestreets at cyclestreets.net - the most popular cycle journey planner but relies on data from OpenStreetMap (OSM) so coverage may not be perfect in some areas
  • National Rail at www.nationalrail.co.uk - best for train only enquiries and includes tools to find out train running information
  • Traveline at www.traveline.info - set up by the transport industry and provides a call service as well as a text service for bus stops. Each bus stop has a unique eight letter code that you can text to 84268 to find out the times of the next services. Increasingly this provides real time information rather than just the times on a timetable.
  • Lift share at www.liftshare.com - the largest lift share site allows you, once registered, to offer or request to share a lift

Sometimes it is easier to browse routes rather than plan a specific journey:

  • For walking, such as footpaths and cut-throughs in built-up areas, you can use OSM at www.openstreetmap.org or commercial service Streetmap, which uses Ordnance Survey data at www.streetmap.co.uk  
  • For cycling, click on the + icon at the top right and select the cycle map in OpenStreetMap or visit opencyclemap.org,
  • National Rail has maps of routes, operators and options at stations, click on the stations tab. For timetables you’ll need to go to the relevant train operating company.
  • For buses, there is no easy way to do this, as you need to know timetable numbers if not the bus operator’s name first. Some route data is available on opencyclemap.org by clicking on the + icon at the top right and selecting the transport map.
  • Carplus at www.carplus.org.uk/car-clubs/find-a-car-club-car - allows you to see where car club vehicles are parked. Don’t forget providing information about car rental sites too, which are better for longer hires. There are many sites that allow you to search for good deals locally.
  • Do also see if your local authority or transport authority has local information, such as on its website.

The Government has committed to making more road, bus and train information available. CPRE is campaigning for existing data on bus tickets and traffic regulation orders (covering parking, turning restrictions etc.) to be made available freely as open data. This would allow software developers to create new services such as apps for smart phones. Watch this space.


Good maps have accurate information and just the right information for the intended use. The more complex maps are, the more difficult they are to use and there are some very bad examples around. Some councils have published green or sustainable travel maps that combine walking, cycling and public transport information. These maps suffer from the ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ problem and so are not recommended.

The main choices when it comes to actually making a map are:

  • take a screenshot from OpenStreetMap
  • draw a map yourself using a graphics program on your computer - this is best for simple maps and it can be easy to trace a vector layer over a screenshot of an OpenStreetMap on different forms of software
  • insert a frame of a map into a web page so people can move around it and resize it
  • render data from OpenStreetMap, selecting the type of information (for example bus routes rather than public houses) you want to show and the style - there are an increasing range of tools, such as Maperitive and Mapnik, that allow you to do this but this does require technical skill

This map of Wigan bus routes is an example of using a graphics program, while these East Kent cycle maps show the power of being able to render map data. The last option is complex and more advice is available in this Rendering OpenStreetMap guide but the benefits are considerable. Commercial surveying and production of a cycle map can cost £20,000 upwards even before printing. By contrast, Spokes, the East Kent Cycle Campaign, have managed to produce these very professional looking cycle maps for the 14 main towns in their area for free. By adding data to OSM then using special free software they developed to create a PDF file for each town, it has become a relatively quick process.

Area maps - active travel

The first thing to work out is the size and scale of your map, which will involve balancing detail with the area covered. It may be best to create separate maps, for example of a town centre, the whole town and even the surrounding area, though only as an overview. Not only does the Oxford Cycle Map take this approach, it also shows ‘isochrones’, lines that show approximately how long it takes an average person to travel. In this case it assumes it takes 5 minutes to cycle 1.5km or a mile through the city. Showing isochrones for walking and cycling from a particular place, such as a town centre, station or other place you are producing a travel plan for can be helpful to show people how quick these forms of travel can be. You could just show a scale on the side with the same information.

The next stage is to work out what to show and how to show it. For walking you want to ensure that all walking possibilities are shown. Walking routes are not normally shown except safe routes to school or leisure routes as part of a but not specific routes unless there are signed leisure routes. Unlike maps for driving, main roads should not be given particular prominence, while local landmarks may be helpful for wayfinding. Legible London maps show this, see the wayfinding section below.

For cycling it is more complex and there are three main approaches:

  • showing cycle facilities - even though they may just be cycle lanes that stop every few metres or that are parked in outside rush hour
  • showing cycle routes - such as National Cycle Network routes or locally designated routes, even though there may be discontinuous with large sections without any direction signs to follow
  • grading each street -depending how easy it is to cycle on, based on the three levels of cycle training (see the cycle training section for more information), even though this may depend on the time of day

The most useful cycle maps do not overload the user with information but show:

  • signed routes - that you can just follow as they have coherent direction signs, such as the best Sustrans routes, in particular the National Cycle Network.
  • pleasant routes - such as through parks and along rivers and canals. Good maps show which of these are unsurfaced, the key issue here is to distinguish the paths you need thick tyres to ride or risk getting muddy on.
  • useful cut throughs and quiet roads - sometimes called routes advised by cyclists and coloured in yellow.

It is difficult to provide hard and fast rules about cycle lanes as their quality and usefulness can vary from place to place. It is certainly worth showing high quality cycle tracks that are physically separated from motor traffic, though this does not include pavements that have simply been designated for cycling. It can also be worth showing

  • traffic calmed and traffic restricted areas - effectively those that almost all people should feel safe cycling on
  • dangerous junctions
  • major cycle parking, such as secure or large facilities

If you are using OpenStreetMap, ensure that there’s good coverage of your area. Although there is good coverage of roads across the country, coverage of Rights of Way and cycle facilities is patchy. See the mapping your area section for more information.

Area maps - public transport

Public transport maps can be the most difficult to get right, particularly for maps that cover many different routes, whether because they cover a large area or an area with a dense network. Helping people make sense of all the different routes needs skillful design. The main choice is whether to go for a geographical map or a topological map, like London’s tube map. Topological maps are dealt with in more detail in the onwards maps section.

Although bus stops have been added nationally, coverage of UK bus routes is limited currently on OpenStreetMap. By clicking on the cross in the top right corner to change the base layer to transport, you can view this data. By adding bus route data to OpenStreetMap you will at least be able to provide a ‘slippy’ (one you can move about with your mouse and zoom in/out of) on-line map of bus routes in your area.

A limitation with maps generated in this way is that they simply show a bus route or several bus routes running along the same route as a line of the same colour. Where there are many routes it can be easier to understand the network if routes are shown in different colours. Currently if you want to make this sort of map you will need to involve graphic designers as there is no software that does this automatically.

For those with technical skills you can also try using map style editors, such as cloudmade.com, to make your own rendering of OpenStreetMap bus route data and then use this to make a static map that can be printed. There may be an automated way to do this available soon, as is now possible for cycle maps.

If you are in an area with many different services, it is more likely you will be able to get bus and train operators to do or contribute some resources. If you are in an area where services are sparse, it will be easier to do something needing less professional input as there will be fewer routes to show. Your local council may be able to contribute too as well as encouraging different interests to come together.

Onward maps

Onward maps show which routes you can take from a specific place, whether a transport interchange or town centre, and are often displayed. The best example are ‘spider maps’ that simplify route information in the surrounding area. These topological maps often combine a zoomed in normal map in the centre showing ‘where to board your bus’. Look at the borough bus maps from Transport for London, or this cycling map from Eurostar showing routes from St Pancras station to see how these work.

An easy way to make topological maps is to use the layer function in graphics programs. Import a map of the area you want to cover then create a separate vector layer. Start by tracing straight lines on this layer between points on the map beneath it and then consider simplifying the lines so that they are either horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Or for an even simpler version just draw the lines yourself without any map behind them.

Site directions

Whether it's a doctor's surgery, stately home or business, chances are there will be some 'how to find us' information on a website and leaflets. Influencing the content of these is not just about ensuring people are aware of different options, it's an excellent bottom up way to influence people's perceptions about different means of getting about. Just as having bike racks tucked around a corner or a bus stop away from a main entrance tends to mean these options are overlooked, so having these forms of travel at the bottom of a list is a lost opportunity. Encouraging places to think about the travel information they provide can be a good first step to engaging them to think a bit more, such as considering travel plans.

So why not encourage organisations to list healthy forms of travel such as walking and cycling first and then driving last? How to produce active travel directions (pdf) is a good resource that sets out this and other relevant principles, although the links are a bit dated.

Other travel information

Timetable and route information

Timetables can be very complicated for some people to use. Although on-line planners and live travel information are increasingly useful, there's still a need for timetables, which some people can find difficult to use. Although public transport operators may provide summary tables for main destinations, they might not for your local stop. So producing a summary for your local area can be a good idea, see for example this publication from Staveley (pdf), which is designed to be printed off and put on a fridge door. Similarly you could also produce information about the route(s) that operate in your area, such as how long it takes to get to each place from your locality.

This sort of information can be useful whether it's displayed on the roadside or within a publication for your area, such as the local newsletter. There are lots of different ways you can present travel information and there are new ways to do this, such as using Quick Response codes. More ideas are available from ITO's page on publicising transport.

Ticketing and prices

It's not just rail fares that can be particularly complicated to get your head round. There are a myriad of options for bus fares too and, with the roll out of smart cards and mobile ticketing apps, it's not getting any simpler. So more than ever, it's important to give people information about how to get the best value when using public transport.

A good start is to provide a table comparing costs of different forms of travel, see for example the second page of this publication from Staveley (pdf). But don't forget to include other information such as:

  • weekly and monthly passes, which can make everyday travel much cheaper
  • local travel cards, which offer a discount on a specific line
  • groupsave options, for example on many trains four can travel for the price of two
  • advanced tickets for trains, which can be surprisingly cheap so long as you can book before you travel
  • cost of different driving options such as car sharing and lift sharing, compared to the average annual cost of owning a car
  • mileage allowances for different forms of travel - many people don't realise you can claim back 20p mile for some cycling journeys

Safety and security

Fears about safety and security can be real barriers to changing travel behaviour, particularly if someone has already had a bad experience. Do be careful how you present information, however, as you don't want to put people off. Risks can sound scary if there's no context.

  • Advice on how to stay safe, see for example the training for safer cycling section
  • Information about if you are left stranded, such as if you miss the last bus or if your bike breaks down
  • Security information such as using immobilise to register your cycle or mobile phone to increase the chance of it being returned if stolen - www.immobilise.com

Promotional materials

Finally don't forget to promote sustainable travel options as if you were selling a product. There are more ideas about the types of messaging and images you should and shouldn't use in the influencing travel choices section. There are lots of different ideas for such as posters and leaflets that sell the benefits of sustainable travel choices and make them more attractive, including leisure guides.

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