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Route-planning site rolls out "Street View for bikes"

Can I ride my road bike down that track? Find out with ingenious image mash-up

Route planning site has introduced a new feature: photographs of bike paths and trails that allow you to find out what the surface of a track is like before you set out. In short, they say, it's Street View for cyclists.

The surfaces of cycle tracks vary wildly, from well-kept tarmac and concrete to muddy singletrack. That makes planning a route that avoids roads as much as possible a bit of a lottery. This writer found himself on a rubble-surfaced Roman road recently after following a route south of Cambridge generated by CycleStreets.

If I’d used I’d have known that what looked like a road on the map actually looked like this on the ground:

To be fair to the enormously useful CycleStreets, it actually turned a road bike ride into a bit of an adventure and if I’d bothered to scroll down the route plan I’d have found CycleStreets’ photos too.

But has done a really good job of implementing the photos feature. Click on a section of the route on the map and you’re offered a ‘Find photos’ option. You can therefore immediately see which sections are not on proper roads and check them out.

I’ve not explored in much depth, but one feature that’s immediately appealing and I’ve not seen elsewhere is the ability to automatically create a circular route that takes in a point. If you want to visit a particular cafe, say, but want to come back by an different route, that’s really handy.

The folks say they were inspired by a perennial question on bike forums: “can I ride along that track on my bike?”.

To answer it, they’ve tapped into community photo project Geograph, which collects photos of every corner of the British Isles.’s editor Richard Fairhurst said: “The idea for this came from seeing ‘Can I cycle the C2C on a road bike?’ on a cycling forum for about the tenth time.

“If it was on-road, you could check it out on Google Street View. But that doesn’t cover cycle paths or bridleways. These photos do – and make it really easy to research quiet bike routes away from busy roads.” uses OpenStreetMap data, and takes surface type, hills, and National Cycle Network routes into account when planning a route. Other features include:

  • ‘Draggable’ routes and via points
  • Save routes and share with others
  • Print a PDF map at one of three scales (city, local or touring)
  • Elevation profile

The site’s cartography also shows cycle path surfaces in three clear styles (tarmac, firm, or muddy), so you know whether you can ride a trail on skinny tyres or whether you need to get out your mountain bike.

Check it out at

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

Latest Comments

  • brooksby 3 min 12 sec ago

    So not enough of a kerb to separate the cycle path from the main carriageway, and we know how much attention many motorists pay to the painted...

  • mctrials23 5 min 17 sec ago

    Its OK, when they kill someone it will be an accident. A momentary lapse in concentration. A tragic and unpreventable death. Another reason...

  • Veloism 18 min 22 sec ago

    Total gimmick. You're paying for useless features here. If you want to invest in something that will actually make a real difference to your safety...

  • mrml 25 min 44 sec ago

    Another use might be to control a third (drag) brake such as a drum brake or mechanical disc brake on a tandem or cargo bike.  I use a thumb...

  • ShutTheFrontDawes 52 min 7 sec ago

    I don't think you're councillor material with comments like that ...

  • Steve K 54 min 41 sec ago

    It's only a problem if the average speed of your front wheel is different to that of your back wheel.

  • 11waterloo 1 hour 5 min ago

    No worries! It must be a real pain when you are in a completely different time zone and daylight saving gets thrown in as well! The game shows the...

  • Awavey 1 hour 11 min ago

    How complicated is just dont drive into people to master ?...

  • chrisonatrike 2 hours 14 min ago

    Maybe they thought her piece was rather heady and raw - it needed more maturation?

  • ktache 2 hours 26 min ago

    Why do these self-entitled motorists think they should be blocking a pavement. Doesn't their "road tax" pay for them to block the road.