Home > Public Domain Data > A local cycling example of GIS as a system of engagement

A local cycling example of GIS as a system of engagement

For many years I and others have been speaking about two intertwining forces in geotechnologies: (1) That GIS has moved from a system of records to a system of engagement, and (2) the connection of mapping to the citizen science community. On (1), to be sure, GIS still is fundamentally tied to records, and indeed, without the spatial and attribute data, you have no GIS. However, GIS is not primarily simply about recording natural and physical objects on, above, or below the surface. And I salute the many people involved in encoding this volume of information, as I used to do in the past at the USGS, and what thousands of dedicated individuals do on a daily basis today.

But these records are not collected just to populate a database or even just to map things: They are created to serve a higher purpose–to enable organizations to make smarter decisions about what is there and what should be there; to forecast, to model, to plan. In addition, data-as-services and software-as-a-service together with field tools allows the public to be engaged in their community as never before. Coupled with that is (2), the citizen science or community science movement, which is nearly 150 years old, but now is seeing rapid expansion given the community’s newfound ability to map the data that they are collecting. Recently I experienced both of these at a personal level.

My city of Lakewood, Colorado USA, has a great web GIS map of trails, and also a request portal through which community members can report about and request things that are in need of repair or otherwise of concern. My community also has a number of data services through the efforts of its excellent GIS staff, including cycling, walking, and hiking trails. Why not, I thought, put my interest in my community, my interest in GIS, and my interest in cycling to the test and try out this request portal? I went cycling and identified a few places of concern to me and surely to other cyclists. I then went to the citizen portal and identified those areas with the photos I had taken. To my surprise, the parks and recreation people called me and asked for further clarification! I provided it, and as you can see in the photographs below, two days later, the places were marked, and two days after that, they were repaired! I called the parks people back to express my gratitude and also emailed and called the GIS staff as well.

Once again, the power of GIS at work! Call me a “satisfied community member”.

This crack in this trail is not a big deal if you are just walking, but to a cyclist, it is just wide enough and at a steep part of the trail to cause significant jarring of your front tire when you hit it.
The crack has been filled! Hooray.
Due in large part to some pretty active roots, the asphalt along this section of trail is full of bumps and cracks. Again not that big of a deal to a hiker, but a big deal to a cyclist.
Just two days later, I noticed these spots had been marked for repair!
Two days after that, the cracks had been filled (see right side) and the broken parts of the fence had also been repaired!

Categories: Public Domain Data
  1. CFM
    September 7, 2021 at 2:11 pm

    Sometimes cracks & holes in bike paths are marked by concerned cyclists and not by the repair dept. I know people who do this.
    Sometimes they also get repaired!

    • josephkerski
      September 7, 2021 at 2:43 pm

      True! In this case the city parks people tagged it after my inquiry and fixed it. Thanks for reading and for your interest.

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