7 things to consider when making an active transportation map

If you need a new or updated map to show your city active transportation network, here are 7 things to think about:

1. How will this map help you or your map-users?

Think about the problem it will solve. Is it to inform people about the city’s cycling network to get people out of their cars for short trips? Will it help you identify missing pieces in your infrastructure? Maybe you need one map for internal planning use and one for the public.

2. Who is the audience for your map?

Photo of child holding map by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Is your active transportation map for commuters or for recreation, for residents or for visitors to the area? Is it for cycling tourists, hikers, pedestrians, cyclists, transit-users, etc. Consider a detailed map with all infrastructure for commuters and a more general map highlighting recreational off-road or protected routes and attractions for recreational users.

3. What geographic area will the map show?

Mississauga Cycling Map South

Think about the main focus of the map, and whether you need small locator or larger detail maps as well. Will it show regional connectivity? And will it need detail maps of downtown areas and transit hubs?

4. What information should be on the map?

Think about the type of content you want to show. Hint: this will depend on your audience and how they will use it.

For commuters – do you want to show transit routes and bus stops in addition to transit stations? Will you indicate curb-cuts for accessibility? Think about adding bike parking, sheltered seating areas, bus shelters, drinking water locations, toilets. Is it enough to show physical types of cycling infrastructure or do you want to also indicate levels of traffic stress to highlight your AAA (all ages and abilities) network? For cycling tourists – do you want to show the major routes and attractions?

5. If you already have a map, what do you want to change?

What do you like or dislike about your map? Do you have new infrastructure to add? Have you received public feedback about the look and usability of it? Make sure that fonts are legible for vision-impaired people, and that colours are easily differentiated for those with colour-blindness.

6. Who are the project stakeholders?

Think about who will review drafts and provide final approvals. For brochures or folding maps who will contribute text or additional graphic content? What departments and teams need to be involved (GIS, Transportation Planning, Graphics, etc.)? Make a list and check their schedules.

7. When do you need the map?

Leave enough time for reviews, revisions, and approvals. Think about all the project stakeholders and how often they will meet to review/approve the project. It’s been my experience that a full city map project can take anywhere from 6 weeks to several months.

I hope this has given you some ideas to take back to your teams for discussion to plan your project. Or contact me for a free consultation to talk about your next map.

Read more about the Guelph Cycling Map project here.

Images: 1. Detail of 2020 Guelph Bike Map – 2. Photo of child holding map by Annie Spratt on Unsplash – 3. Mississauga Cycling Map South – 4. Legend from 2020 Guelph Bike Map

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