Finishing the UK road network

A few weeks ago I was discussing the progress of mapping the UK at one of the London OSM pub meetups (Harry picked up on it in his diary entry for the evening). I was making the point that we’re making great progress, and if things continue as they are then most towns and villages will be mapped in 12 months time. Now we’ve certainly heard that before (Steve Coast was targetting summer 2008 if I recall) but my guesstimates are based on weekly road length analysis that I’ve seen and I’m currently working on making public.

Fill the Gap

But leaving things to take their due course is the easy way out, and I think we can do most of the remaining work this summer if we collectively put our minds to it. What would that involve? Well, a few dozen mapping parties would be a good start, since there are only currently two scheduled (Witham and Maidstone). CloudMade had been sponsoring a few mapping parties in the past, but that seems to have fizzled out, so it’s up to the community to sort things out ourselves. A good source of ideas for places is the UK Mapping Priorities and Secondary Priorities pages. I’ve been updating the former over the last week, and it’s impressive how many places have been mapped over the last six months. But there are some glaring problem areas – anyone want to organise a Darlington party?


What else beyond parties? Publicity is something we’ve been reasonably poor at over the years. Getting in the press is a good way to “prime the pump” for gaining new members, and probably encouraging people who might have looked before to look again. We can just make random “press releases” about all kinds of things we do – that’s what everyone else does! I’ve just gone looking on the wiki for previous press releases, and they are woefully lacking. Whilst it’s great to get coverage in the national press, I think we should be aiming for all the local papers that struggle to find anything interesting to print. Of course, if we had those two dozen mapping parties they would be a good excuse for releases. But beyond that, lots and lots of blogging, discussing on forums and things like that. Just try to find ways to put the word out. I’m selling promotional stickers in the OpenCycleMap shop – any more ideas like that? We could get some funding or fundraising for more leaflets to hand out, or for organising stalls at trade shows, or for buying another banner, or buying our own aerial imagery.

And when we have all these new people, we’ll have more awesome tools for them. Grant is sorting out the wiki onto new, faster hardware, and I’ve been finding time to work on Potlatch2. More development helps, so if you’re that way inclined I’d love to have you helping. But it’s completely plausible to finish the UK road network this summer if we get organised and get motivated. Who’s up for the challenge?

4 thoughts on “Finishing the UK road network

  1. Christopher Osborne

    A little organisation around press releases would certainly help spread the message a lot. Collating a list of press contacts would help, as would a collection of images/media that can be used as a press pack. Wiki pages are a great place to gather thoughts and knowledge etc but it needs to be clearly written as a press release with an accompanying media pack.

    The ‘press info’ on the Haiti wiki page was a great resource for me to gather and write a proper press release, but nothing that a journalist working to deadlines would actually use. All the Haiti and OSM coverage I saw came from companies, NGOs and individuals who had written their own press release.

    Creating ‘press info’ wiki pages for all mapping parties would be a good start, a batch of photos after the event, before and after the mapping party images of OSM. Crucially, get at least one person to commit to writing it up as a formal press release and send it out.

  2. Pete Reed

    Does this help with priorities?

    For each local authority in England it compares the length of roads in the database (as of January this year) with road lengths published by DfT.

    (Scotland and most of Wales are approximations based on EU regions, because some of the local authority boundaries were not all available at the time I did the extract.

    See for map, and for data.

  3. Martin, CycleStreets

    We (CycleStreets) have a real need to know the level of coverage in different areas around the country. Pete: I’ll send you an e-mail shortly as the work you’re doing could be very helpful to our project.

  4. Dave

    On the sticker front, I’d like a sticker that said “this bike parking spot (and thousands like it) are mapped on” to be added to the bike rack most visible to the street. Maybe similar for putting on the poles holding bike route signs, toucan crossings etc. Maybe a generic “this is on opencyclemap” for other random and obscure items like bike bridges, cool short cuts etc.

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