The subway-style bike map returns, with a few tweaks

In February, I wrote about a map that illustrates a number of local trails and bike lanes as though they’re subway lines. In the time since, map author Michael Graham has made some updates.

Most of the reasons for sharing the map still apply. As I wrote, Washington is a bike-friendly place with lots of trails and bike lanes, and it’s very visually interesting to put them together in the mold of a subway map. Graham’s map has two versions: one that looks like what’s above, and one that’s overlaid on a regular map of the region.

Image by Michael Graham used with permission.

In terms of what Graham changed from February, he alphabetized the list of trails and made some name changes, like Adventist Hospital becoming Takoma Park. Graham also added in new sections like the Northwest Branch Trail, and put labels on all the beginning and end points. 

A number of popular locations where trails and lanes begin and end now have letters marking them, as well. For example, “T” marks the Titanic Memorial  while “N” shows Nationals Park.

Graham also brightened the color scheme, making the map more distinguishable and easy to read. 

The map isn’t all-inclusive

If Graham’s goal was to show all the bike infrastructure in the region, there are definitely some missing pieces. Last time I wrote about Graham’s maps, commenters noted that missing segments included the protected bikeways on L and M Street NW, the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail, and various connections to the Capital Crescent Trail. 

A few commenters pointed out that in general, maps like this one have their limits. 

“These maps help me to look at the connections in DC a little more differently, but I wouldn’t use them for travel planning or suggest them for use by a visitor to DC who is not already familiar with the city,” wrote commenter Nico. “I think cyclists need a detailed map.”

Martin P added a similar thought:

While I absolutely love the idea of making bike maps more user-friendly and really want to see a good cross-jurisdiction bike map project for the area, something like this for bike routes is inherently going to be contentious and problematic in a way subway maps aren’t. With subways, there’s generally little doubt about what is and isn’t a subway. With bike routes, if you’re only going to choose a subset of them for inclusion, that’s always going to result in something misleading in one way or another.

I live in Silver Spring, for instance, and I feel like this map gives a very misleading impression of the connectivity of the Silver Spring area. If it includes on-street routes for the MBT, why does it not include on-street connections to Bethesda (via the signed interim CCT) or to the ATT and Hyattsville (via a short on-street stretch to get to the Sligo Creek trail)? Both of those on-street sections are (I believe) substantially shorter than the interim MBT.

At the same time, the post we ran in February was one of GGWash’s most-viewed. Did people find it interesting because it was useful, or just because it was cool to look at?

You can check out Graham’s other maps— he has made similar ones for Boulder, Denver, San Francisco, London, and more—on his website.

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