There’s no shortage of ways to find a good bike route, from Google Maps to a wide variety of free cycling-specific apps. But these don’t allow the rider to follow along and see the real conditions on the route. And knowing what’s coming can be pretty important: It’s not great to be surprised while you’re flying around on your bike.
That’s the goal of Cyclodeo, a Dutch startup that is hacking together a mashup of helmet-cam video and Google Maps–a sort of Street View for bike lanes. Since we first wrote about the site in February, the company has been busy expanding in the U.S. and Europe, launching in New York a few months ago and now in San Francisco this week, along with recent launches in Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
The site is so simple and smart, it’s a wonder no one thought of it before. Visit the site on a desktop or mobile device, and you can click on rides and routes, follow it on a map, and skip in the video to the exact point of interest. It also displays the length, distance, and elevation change of the ride and other useful stats. The new San Francisco hub will launch with 95 rides, and you can see one famous one–the ride across the Golden Gate Bridge–above and video here.
Many of the videos of San Francisco and New York were captured by Bendida himself, who was surprised to learn exactly how hilly the City by the Bay can be. But he is phasing-in a crowdsourcing plan.
“I had to show the example, but I’m not Superman,” Bendida admits. “I cannot cover the whole world.”
To create their own video maps, contributing riders just have to strap a video camera to their helmet or handlebars, launch a GPS tracker on their phone, and Cyclodeo will create a geo-tagged video of their ride. After receiving tons of interest, he’s now starting to accept contributors for existing cities (you can fill out a form to contact him) and plans to expand to new cities based on where there is interest from locals to do the grunt work (you can request to “unlock your city” here). “We don’t need millions of contributors. Every street, you can see as a piece of the puzzle. You just need maybe 50 cyclists to cover the whole city and update it on a regular basis,” he says.
Bendida, a cycling enthusiast who quit his job as an electrical engineer to pursue the project, imagines Cyclodeo will be most useful for new riders, tourists, and people who simply want to explore a foreign city by virtual bike. He also thinks city planners and bike advocates will use it as a tool to compare bike infrastructure in New York and cycle-centric cities like Amsterdam. Bendida hopes to earn some money by allowing city agencies to sponsor professionally produced videos of bike routes they want to promote–a model he is testing with two pilot projects soon.