Route planning and ride logging platform Ride with GPS has added “popularity-influenced” routing to its planner in an effort to improve the quality of its results.
According to Ride with GPS, “routes have always been developed based on a combination of distance and safety”, but the new algorithm takes into account the routes real cyclists are favouring, avoiding unnecessary detours that the old system might have produced.
Ride with GPS’s popularity-based routing is based on analysing over 13 million rides covering 427 million miles, with a focus on more recent data to ensure the results are up-to-date.
The company says it added this functionality based on rider feedback because the old algorithm was prone to taking you off main roads for short stretches before immediately rejoining them, seeing side streets as safer even if the main road was, in reality, an acceptable choice.
Users don’t need to take any action to benefit from popularity-based routing – it’s now baked into the route planner.
Ride with GPS says further improvements to its route planner are in the works, incorporating different surface types and “bicycle profiles”.
Smarter route planning seems to be in vogue right now. Strava launched its new Routes platform in March this year promising personalised rides, while the latest Garmin computers with mapping incorporate an element of popularity in their routing.
Ride with GPS’s basic functionality (including route planning) is available for free if you sign up, while paid plans starting at $6 per month / $50 per year unlock more advanced functionality.
Update, 3 August 2020. Ride with GPS’s Kevin Prentice got in touch to clarify how the new popularity routing will affect results:
“Popularity has not become the foundation of our routing service. Safety and distance has been and will remain to be the primary factors in determining routing.
“You can think of of the popularity aspect as serving as a tiebreaker. Historically there would be spots our routing would think, “Oh, I detect what OSM says is a slightly safer side street one street over. I’m going to route over there for a few blocks because that road is programmed as a little safer, and it’s not too much farther in distance”.
“Now we have the ability in those instances to factor in popularity, and if the routing detects that 996 cyclists stay on the main road for those few blocks, and only four cyclists decided to take the detour, it seems reasonably safe to not produce the detour in our routing and just keep the route heading straight.
“The goal of this project is for you to hopefully not even know this update happened, and for occasional detours/jogs/idiosyncrasies to go away.”