Smartphone Mapping App Helps RAGBRAI Riders ‘Ride Right’



By Chrissy Amaya, Undergraduate Student, Greenlee School of Journalism

AMES, Iowa — Officially, the 41st Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa — better known as RAGBRAI — was underway July 21–27, 2013. However, nearly 100 cyclists tried out the route early as part of the Ride Right campaign, a committee formed by the Des Moines Register dedicated to the safety of RAGBRAI riders.

The purpose of the pre-ride, which took place June 2–8, was to gather data about the route. The pre-ride mirrored the actual ride, starting in Council Bluffs on Sunday and ending in Fort Madison on Saturday, to get a more accurate representation of what street traffic would be like each day for RAGBRAI riders.

In previous years, RAGBRAI riders have had access to data such as mileage between towns, elevation and wind speed from GeoBike.com. This year, the Right Ride group also gathered information about potential hazards on the route.

In an effort spearheaded by Tim Lane, creator and founding chair of the Ride Right campaign, the pre-riders used a smartphone app to map large bumps, center cracks or roadways with no shoulders along the route that could be harmful to the 8,500 week-long riders and 1,500 daily RAGBRAI riders.

Christopher Seeger, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach landscape architect and associate professor, and Bailey Hanson, ISU Extension geographical information systems analyst, developed the app. Lane and Seeger worked together during Lane’s tenure at the Iowa Department of Public Health, so he was familiar with other mapping apps that Seeger has developed for smartphones.

As cyclists mapped potential hazards, the data were uploaded to a server at Iowa State. Using these data, Hanson and Seeger created an online map. The map was used to put up appropriate warning signs throughout the route and, if the risk was serious enough to have the hazard mitigated or eliminated, talk with county engineers.

For more information about GIS mapping apps that Seeger has developed, contact him at cjseeger@iastate.edu.

Seeger received a 2013 National Planning Achievement Award for Transportation Planning from the American Planning Association for his development of the geospatial planning tools and processes that help communities identify and collect information to create a Safe Routes to School program.

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RAGBRAI app map


The map pictured here is an example of a map that could be created for RAGBRAI riders from data collected using the smartphone app.