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Friday, 20 August 2010

How I would write a London Cycle Hire App

Phase 1: Map

Resizable map with little circles for hire points. The colour varies from yellow to blue. Yellow for many spaces and blue for many bikes. If the hire point is full or empty, the icon changes to an X.

Phase 2: Timing

A timer, that can optionally sound an alarm when you get to 25 minutes. It could be told to find the closest point to your current location. It should also be able to time a five minute break between hiring cycles, if you're trying to avoid fees and track how much money you've spent if you go longer than half an hour.

Phase 3: Route Planning

Pre-compute routes between every possible pair of hire points (store this information on a website someplace and check for an update every few months). When a user asks for a route between two addresses or whatever, figure out the coordinates of where they're coming from and going, find the closest hire points to those points, download walking instructions from google to connect those points to the actual destinations. It should switch to further away hire points if there's a problem with available bikes or spaces.

Phase 4: Tracking conditions

If you destination hire point has filled up and you're pretty close to it, it should re-compute the route from your current position to the hire point with spots available that's closest to your destination and get new walking instructions from that point. It should also get directions from your original destination hire point to the new one, in case you don't notice that anything has happened. It should alert you that it's got a new route for you.

I'm pondering writing an n900 app

But I'm really busy lazy, so if somebody else beats me to it, I'm cool with that. The Maep program is a demonstration of some map apis, so it can be used to provide the map functionality, along with the tfl's bike API.

I would use Cycle Streets for the route planning. Then you can give users options of whether they want quiet or fast routes. Plus it's a cool service. The TFL can also provide cycling directions, which are more likely to use posted bike routes.

I've been riding the Boris bikes quite frequently, especially for short trips. If it's 20 minutes to walk or 10 minutes to walk to a hire point, grab a cycle, etc, then I'll go for the cycle. For those kinds of trips, especially, it would be nice to have a map on my phone, because there's a risk, if all the hire points are filling up with bikes, that the closest place to park might be the very

I would really like it if this could somehow be integrated into Mappero, which is a fantastic map/navigation app, but I suspect it's beyond me. Unless there's a plugin api what's well documented. I'd also think it was cool is Mappero could just download OSM data directly and do it's own rendering. That would be awesome.

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