Monday, August 2, 2010

Making Cycle Hire easier

The TfL Cycle Hire Map recently launched is very handy but still some things could be improved - it is tricky for a casual user to get the list of the stations with their coordinates for offline use. Also, there is no visible way of importing those coordinates into a GPS navigator - you're tied to the TfL website or Google Maps in the best case. So I've done some minor scripting to retrieve the information and published it:
Using Fusion Tables, you can create your own mashups and visualizations in several clicks - e.g. you can add a map like the one below to your page (just select "Visualize" / "Map" and customize your settings):

Also, you can easily get the same table in KML format or as a plain CSV (just select "File" / "Export" to get a CSV file).

What's it all about? With the raw data received in KML or CSV form you can feed those coordinates to almost any navigation system you use with little efforts to change the format to the one your device supports.

For example, here you can download a file for Nokia OVI maps I've created in 5 minutes. To add the docking stations coordinates to your Nokia phone, you need to copy this file to your device, then install free LmManager app and use its "Import" feature to put them all into your landmarks (for some yet unknown reason they may appear uncategorised but it's a 15 seconds deal to select them all in the standard Landmarks application and categorize in a bundle).

As a result, now you can navigate to the nearest station without internet connection required.

Upd. Pay attention that these are only coordinates, with no current state information provided. If you want to see the number of bikes and docking slots available at the moment, the best map you need is here (on the contrary to the official TfL version it shows the numbers right in the marker icons).

Update: Ovi Maps pack updated.

Update: Another update

Update: for an up-to-date version please see the new dynamic solution.


  1. Thanks so much. I flagged this as a 'want' to the ovi maps team. I am using the bikes more and more and this is so much better than google maps. Now to sort out a way to make the work on my e71 or n97

  2. Thanks for flagging this and glad that somebody is making use of it.

  3. actually using this I will be compiling a ovi map landmark of regus business lounge locations

    jon at jongarside dot com

  4. You mean, using LmManager? Yes, that's a useful app. And you can prepare several "profiles" (location files) to switch between them like "Cycling", "Business", "Walking" etc.

  5. @Anon - this does work with an E71. Download Opera Mobile (not Mini). Its not quick, but it does work.

    Thanks for the DB and cyclehire site. I've been trying to avoid buying an iphone, and thought that the Boris Bikes were going to force my hand.
    The DB on its own is enough, and is the icing on the cake.

  6. Glad it worked for you. I check periodically if new stations are listed on the official site, and I'll write a comment here in case if you need update the database.

  7. In case if you're subscribed to comments, update is available.

  8. Hi, I'm trying to make use of this but I just end up getting loads of new "favourites" in Ovi Maps.

    Thanks for doing this though. The situation I'm in now is better than not having any knowledge of Boris Bike stations.

  9. Yes, there is a problem with OVI maps and existing importing tools - it is not possible to put imported landmarks into a dedicated category, you'll always get a "flat" list of them.

    However, there is a way around that offered by the same LmManager tool, as it allows you to have several "landmark databases" and switch between them. So you can create a new blank database called "Bikes", switch into it (your previous landmarks will disappear from the map) and import stations *.ldb into it. Then you'll be able to switch between bikes locations to be shown on your map and all your other favourites, so they won't blend if that bothers you now.

    Also, if you're using landmarks from this post, they're obsolete. There is a script now to generate *.ldb file on the fly with the up-to-date station locations. Feel free to use it:

    Let me know please if you have any questions.

  10. Thanks. One day perhaps Nokia will make Ovi Maps more user friendly.

  11. Personally, I have surrendered to Android recently :) However, I'm looking forward to their future Windows-based devices.