Bike Hub app was number 2 app on iTunes. Future version will feature voice of Phil Liggett.

Cycle satnav app trends on iTunes

The Bike Hub iPhone journey planner and bike shop finding app is getting new people on bikes and, by displaying clever short-cuts and bicycle-friendly routes, is cutting the journey times of existing cyclists.

The app uses a satnav-style routing engine developed specifically for cyclists. Unlike standard satnavs, or Google Maps, the Bike Hub iPhone app can route cyclists along cycle paths, such as routes on the Sustrans’ National Cycle Network.

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans’ Chief Executive said:

“Over half the UK population lives within a mile of the National Cycle Network but how many people are aware that this fast, free and healthy transport option is on their doorstep? As the charity behind the Network we’re delighted to see it promoted as widely as possible as part of an iPhone app that will help people to get out more on foot and by bike for their everyday journeys.”

The app routes away from up-hill slogs for cyclists who wish to avoid them, but gives a high priority to downhill routes.

The cycle routing is done via CycleStreets of Cambridge, a community-based group working on a not-for-profit basis.

Cyclestreets – which also an app available – uses mathematical graph theory algorithms to quickly work out bicycle-friendly routes. Mapping is provided by OpenStreetMap, the ‘wikipedia of maps’. OpenStreetMap is a community of 300,000 map enthusiasts worldwide who collaborate to produce the most up-to-date maps available. Changes made by members of the OSM community can be available online within hours.

The Bike Hub app was produced for trade associations the Bicycle Association of Great Britain and the Association of Cycle Traders. Bike Hub is the UK cycle industry’s levy scheme. Cash from the voluntary levy has allowed the iPhone app to be free on iTunes.

As well as working out bicycle-friendly routes the app has a ‘bike shop finder’ button, calling up bike shops within a six mile radius of an iPhone. Directions are then given to the shops discovered, of which there are 2500 across the UK. The database was supplied by the Association of Cycle Traders.

Within two days of its launch, the app was second in the navigation category on iTunes.

iTunes reviewers have been overwhelmingly positive. iTunes reviewer ‘AndyGoodas’ wrote:

“I thought the roads on my South London commute were too dangerous for me to consider riding as an amateur, but this showed me a brilliant alternative route on quiet back roads I’d never thought of without the app. Going to ride to work most days now, wish I’d started ages ago.”

Andrew Norton of the Aarght art gallery in Oxford emailed with his praise for the app:

“I thought the fastest way to work was 18:40 minutes but after 2 years doing various different routes, you showed me a path and a couple of shortcuts that have reduced it to 16:50! Gob smacked!”

The Bike Hub app also features articles on cycling and the law, the Cycle to Work bike purchase scheme and is able to locate stands for the Barclays Cycle Hire bikes in London.

The app does not yet feature a turn-by-turn voice for directions but this will be added in an update. As well as a synthetic voice, the app will feature the famous voice of TV commentator Phil Liggett.

On iTunes, the Bike Hub app stresses that cyclists should not navigate with one hand and steer with another. Instead the app recommends the use of one of a growing number of iPhone handlebar mounts. Dahon makes the Biologic iPhone mount. And BMX/MTB company NC 17 of Germany makes an aluminium iPhone holder, including for iPhone 3 and, soon, iPhone4..

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