Sarah Goodyear describes the experience-based bike maps developed by Nathan Wilkes, a project engineer at the Austin public works department, and his colleagues with the city of Austin.
"The city’s map prioritizes rider comfort in its symbology. 'We tried to make it real intuitive,' says Wilkes, who has been refining the concept for several years now." Colors are used to symbolize one of five comfort levels. "The result is a map that shows at a glance where the riding is easy and where it’s more challenging. Because the colors are parallel to those used by traffic lights (with the addition of that peaceful-looking blue) they make a deep kind of sense to our eyes and brains."
"One of the things Wilkes and his colleagues are trying to achieve with the map is to show just what is available that meets the very highest comfort level. 'We want people to see, hey, look at all these places you can go even with your kids.' At the same time, the map is helpful to planners because it shows comfort gaps in the network so clearly – spaces where the green and blue bits need to be filled in."