How we redesigned the Guelph cycling map

City cycling map projects can be quite complex and can take several months to complete. I first met with Benita and Jennifer from Guelph’s Sustainable Transportation department last spring (they wanted to redesign their existing map) and we finished the map last fall. The new edition is currently available for download on the city’s website, and will be going to print this spring.

The City of Guelph’s GIS department provided me with road, river, and cycling and trail network data in shapefile format, which I imported into Adobe Illustrator with MAPublisher to edit.

Here’s the previous 2018 map produced by the city’s GIS department. I love that it includes indication of hills and rail crossing hazards.

2018 Guelph Cycling Map

The major focus for this update was to recategorize some of the cycling and trail network and add new infrastructure. In addition to review by the Sustainable Transportation team, the off-road multi-use paths and trails were reviewed for accuracy by the UGDSB, GRCA, University of Guelph, and the city’s Parks Department. Some routes in environmentally-sensitive areas were removed so as to dissuade people from using them.

In total I presented 5 drafts before the final product: some with changes in route categorization; some had changes in line colour to be accessible to those with colour-blindness; and after an informal focus group run by Benita, we changed the priority of routes on the map. 

Here’s the preliminary design draft I presented. I left a blank space for the map logo and title and used bright colours to show the different types of infrastructure for the initial review. 

Guelph Cycling Map - Julie Witmer draft1

Here’s a close-up of the legend showing categories from the city’s GIS dataset. i always do this as the first step to help my clients visualize their current data.

legend - detail from draft 1 of Guelph cycling map

The first couple of reviews were to make sure the network was correct before starting on appearance. We tried a few options for symbolizing the trails network – the dataset had primary, secondary, and informal trails – not wanting to clutter the map but keeping enough information to show people these alternate walking routes.

detail of legend from draft2 of Guelph cycling map
detail of legend from draft3 of Guelph cycling map

The next drafts included an inset map of the downtown area. 

downtown inset from Guelph Cycling Map

We tried some new line widths, types, and colours, and rearranged the legend to show priority to off-road routes. The city added a new category for signed routes, we removed informal trails and combined primary and secondary trails into walking trails, and de-emphasized suggested local routes on the map, This was after multiple rounds of internal reviews with the school board, GRCA, the Parks Department, and determining whether informal paths through these areas and private business property should be shown.

legend from draft4 of Guelph cycling map
detail of draft5 of Guelph cycling map

We took care to assure that the map would be usable to people with colour-blindness. Here is a detail from the map showing a cmyk colour profile, and what it looks like to someone with protanopia-type colour-blindness. Illustrator has a tool to show what it looks like with two kinds of colour-blindness.

detail of Guelph map with cmyk colours
detail of Guelph map showing colours with colour-blindness

We kept the symbols showing hills and rail crossing hazards on the map, and added symbols showing which off-road routes are maintained in winter. It was very important to show the connectivity between on- and off-road routes to help people cycle year-round.

And here’s the latest edition!

2020 Guelph Cycling Map

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