Dutch innovation addresses common cycling problem
Fietsersbond, a bunch of Dutch cyclists, have banded together to create the first (that I'm aware of) cycling-specific door-to-door route finder on the web.
Lucas van Grinsven reports:
The volunteers needed to be much more precise than commercial digital map makers for car navigation devices like Navteq (NYSE:NVT - news) and Tele Atlas (TA.AS), jotting down details such as road surface, scenery and if a road is well lit.
"Detail is what cyclists need and what makes this so valuable. You need to be able to choose a safe route at night, and a racing cyclist wants a hard bike lane and no dirt roads," said 34-year-old Erik Jonkman, one of 70 volunteers.
The Dutch version is a grass-roots undertaking that has required many man-hours to complete just one city's version of the route finder. The user interface is very rough around the edges, and since I can't read Dutch (and I don't know the roads of Utrecht), I can't very well comment on the quality of the information that cyclists are entering into the database.
This idea is very, very cool, and I can definitely see a commercial application of this type of thing. Even in America, Google and Yahoo maps don't even come close to cutting it. Just last weekend I mapped out a 70 mile route from Chico to Red Bluff, CA, and I ended up riding through 4 miles of loose gravel, and shouldered the bike to cross one stream - none of that was on any map. And that's not to say I didn't enjoy those parts of my adventure either. But I digress.
The mashup of a GPS company, a cycling sponsor, and a killer design and engineering team sounds ripe for the picking. If there are any VC's out there who find this idea interesting, feel free to get in touch. I'll lead the design and research for the company that needs to be started...
I should also mention that Fietsersbond is a member of the European Cyclists Federation. The ECF web site is a wealth of fantastic information on pedaling around Europe. You should check it out if you are remotely interested in such an endeavor.