How can good map design help make sustainable travel more attractive to the public?
Today, approximately two thirds of journeys made in the UK are less than 5 miles in length, easily completed by cycling, walking or by public transport. Sustainable transport can be defined as those modes of transport that can make an overall positive impact in terms of Environmental, Health and Financial areas. Sustainable travel has thus become an everyday part of life, as we have become increasingly more aware of alternative transport.
Sustainable travel at the local level
For several years, local government bodies have been adopting sustainable travel policies and attempting to educate and encourage citizens about alternative travel choices across our towns and cities.
At this level, transport strategists have used various measures including infrastructure improvements in the form of Park and Ride facilities and improvements to bus and cycle lanes. However, citizens also need to be provided with improved information on the sustainable travel options available and this is where marketing materials like cycle, bus and walking maps are particularly useful.
A well designed Cycle Map promotes the use of quieter roads and dedicated cycle lanes across towns and cities, to make any commute or leisure ride as safe as possible and a better alternative of transport over the car.
A good cycle map should clearly display recommended routes, whether they are dedicated traffic free paths, suitable quiet back streets or cycle lanes around obstacles such as roundabouts. It is also important to highlight other landmarks to aid orientation and hazards such as points to cross major roads. Features such as cycle parking areas, bike shops and cafes are also often added to provide added interest.
The Cycle Map below is the result of the Wiltshire County Council making a decision to invest in a series of cycle maps to encourage people to cycle and enjoy leisure cycling. We developed a series of Cycle Maps for them, to cover 12 towns in a consistent style. The maps feature local schools, cycle parking and tourist sites as symbols, referenced in a key to make interpretation simple. Radials from the town centre show approximate travel times and distances to encourage people to cycle to work.
Local Authorities and Bus operators have also heavily used Bus Maps in recent years by to enhance their Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) programme and encourage increased use of bus travel.
Good bus map design addresses the potential complexity of a network of several routes along the same road system, bus frequency information in the form of timetables and of course, background mapping. The base map usually contains the contextual main roads, streets and points of interest such as transport interchanges, shopping areas, museums, key LSTF sites, waterways, railways etc. Alternatively, a schematic approach or ‘spider map’ may be used to represent the bus routes in a simplistic way, without the underlying base mapping.
Producing bus route map leaflets often involves compiling essential route and timetable data from the operators and also feature Inset Maps for particularly congested areas, or those around the periphery of the main map. Bus maps are particularly prone to frequent updates as Operators alter their provision, often at short notice.
The Bus Map below for Stoke-on-Trent City Council shows the most up to date services provided by all nine operators in the area. The map contains main roads, streets and points of interest such as transport interchanges, shopping areas, museums, key LSTF sites, waterways, railways etc. Lovell Johns were responsible for compiling the essential route and timetable data from the operators. Inset Maps such as those for Hanley, Stoke and Newcastle were added around the periphery of the main map.
As well as traditional maps and leaflets promoting sustainable transport, online delivery also provides greater access for the general public. Online maps provide an interactive experience where the user can zoom in through multiple levels of mapping down to street level, filter layers of bus routes, bus stops and cycle routes. Additionally, online maps can then link to further supporting information such as live timetables and routing facilities. Such facilities may already be available from other areas of your organisation or others promoting sustainable travel. Most public facing websites can often host today’s interactive map data and routing facilities.
For example, interactive bus route maps for Stoke-on-Trent available through the ‘Travel Smart’ website that links to timetable PDF files available from the bus operators. The site also links to external routing facilities via Traveline, a partnership of transport companies, local authorities and passenger groups.
In summary, good information design in Cycle and Bus maps has played and continues to play an important role in educating and encouraging greater use of sustainable travel across the UK. Transport strategists can no doubt continue to gain benefits from using these maps in the future.