Category Archives: Bicycles

Finding campsites using OpenStreetMap and Overpass Turbo

Campgrounds make for a quick cheap place for a bicycle tourist (or other tourist) to stop for the night, pitch a tent, and get a warm shower. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to tell where all of them are.

For any given region, there are usually some campground associations or governments that list a certain sets of campsites. However, in planning an upcoming bike tour around Normandy, I wanted to have a single map of campsites that cast a wide net. In Europe, the open-source mapping service OpenStreetMap is quite popular and often is the best source of data for geographical features. It’s not perfect. It is sort of like the Wikipedia of cartography: inclusive, but also prone to the occasional error or out-of-date information. Still, it’s exhaustiveness can be helpful for planning: it will tell you all the places there might be a campground.

To get one particular type of map feature out of OpenStreetMap, the best tool is a service called “Overpass Turbo“. It allows you to make a request for one type of feature, and then shows all of them that appear on the current map. Making requests looks a little bit like computer code, but even folks who are not computer nerds can make simple ones. Like for campsites.

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to https://overpass-turbo.eu/.
  2. Find the geographic region that you want to search in. You can either do that by dragging the map, or typing in the name of a geographical location (state, region, etc.) into the search box on the map.
  3. When you load it, Overpass Turbo displays a query for drinking fountains. To make it search for campgrounds instead, you change “amenity=drinking_water” in that query to “tourism=camp_site”.
  4. Click “run”.

The search may take a while. The more territory you had displayed on the map, the slower it goes. A search for all the campgrounds in a city will take a few seconds; a search for all the campgrounds in a region or state will take a couple of minutes or may not complete at all. You may need to reduce the size of the map that is displayed, to make the request in smaller chunks.

You can get a shareable link for the map you’ve created, but it will have to re-run the query when someone else clicks on it. I found it most useful to use the export button to export my data as a GPX or KML file, and then importing it into a Google “My Map“. I then changed  the style (click “uniform style”, “All items”, then the little paint bucket) so that the campsites show up as green tents. You can see that map here.  Either on Overpass Turbo or in the Google Map, where there is additional information about a campsite, like its name or website, that information will appear when you click on the icon. That can help in evaluating whether the information is current and other information about it. Now as I am planning my route, I can take into account where the campsites (probably) are.

Request for Bike Signs at 21st and 21st in Oakland

** Update 5/22: it turns out that there is a bike nav sign at this intersection heading south, but it is set back about 200 feet from the intersection, so it is not very visible. Consider moving it closer to the intersection.  JMM**

This is a request to Oakland Public Works to put in a bike nav sign on E 21St Street for southbound bike traffic, indicating that there is a bike route going uphill on 21st Ave. I frequently blow past that turn because it is unmarked. This is, as far as I can tell, the main bike-route way to get from downtown to the Dimond district, so I would imagine it would say “Dimond 1.6 mi”. You probably want to also label continuing south on E 21st St, although I’m not sure what the “destination” would be going that way (Foothill Blvd? San Leandro?).  Video below at the intersection describing the issue further.

Bay Trail Bike Birding

After reading The Thing With Feathers and then Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, I started being more interested in birds. Then I bought a Sibley Guide, and it got a little more serious.

I’ve always enjoyed the Bay Trail, on several occasions riding SF to Berkeley or the reverse. This weekend I rode from approximately Fruitvale BART to Hayward BART, going through MLK regional shoreline, Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline, and Hayward Regional Shoreline, and I brought my camera. When I’d ridden the trail before I’d often stopped to read the informational signs about birds, and I was surprised that I was able to photograph pretty much all the common birds I’d read about, plus several more. And a bat ray.

 

Bicycle Cue Sheet Holder

I’ve moved to Oakland from Berkeley, and so biking to things goes over longer distances and often I find that I need to bring a cue sheet. That meant I needed a way to hold a cue sheet. I already have a section of my handlebar taped over with electrical tape where I attach my front light, and so I just put a velcro cable tie through a binder clip and then around the taped area. The tape helps hold it in place and prevents scratching.

 

[picture of cue sheet]
Cue sheet made from electrical tape, binder clip, and velcro cable tie.

Bike Camping: SF to Point Reyes Sky Camp

Last weekend I was the event host for a trip from San Francisco to Point Reyes with the NorCal Bicycle Touring and Camping Meetup.  We ended up getting six people together for the trip, all from San Francisco and Berkeley, except one coming in from Sacramento.  I had picked up a camping permit for Sky Camp at Recreation.gov about two months earlier. It is still the rainy season in San Francisco in March, so we felt lucky to have a weekend of sunny weather predicted.

On Highway 1, about ten miles south of Stinston Beach.
On Highway 1, about ten miles south of Stinston Beach.

I planned the route, which was to go out on Highway 1 and back via Sir Francis Drake (Google Maps or Map My Ride; during the trip, we used the Marin County Bike Coalition’s map, which was up-to-date and accurate, $12 including shipping).  The wind is usually from the north along the coast, so ideally we would have gone out Sir Francis Drake and back on Highway 1, but the ferry schedule didn’t really have a good Saturday morning option, so I had to go with the reverse route.

We had a bit of a dodgy start.   Continue reading Bike Camping: SF to Point Reyes Sky Camp

SF to Berkeley Bike Ride.

One of my favorite rides — looking forward to doing this again when my broken wrist is healed. There’s a lot of great parks that line the Bay, and it is fun to see the whole SF Bay area in a day. I often stay closer to the East Bay shore, going through Oyster Bay and Hayward Regional Shorelines. I also tend to think it works better in reverse, since either way you are going into the wind in the afternoon and the winds seem to be lighter on the East Bay side. I recommend bringing a lot of water and food (you’re in the Bay Area, but there are 10-20 mile stretches where there are no drinking fountains or convenience stores) and either a good map or a GPS-enabled phone (perhaps both).


View Berkeley – San Francisco bike ride in a larger map

What is there to see between Dublin and Cork (but not *in* Dublin or Cork)?

I asked this on Quora, and no one answered, so I went ahead and answered my own question after having ridden between the two towns. There’s:

  1. the ruin of Kells Priory  (“one of the largest and most impressive medieval monuments in Ireland”);
  2. the Rock of Cashel if you take the northerly route, or some nice seaside towns (Dungarvan, Youghal) if you go by the coast;
  3. The Irish Steam Preservation Society museum with lots of old steam-powered cars and tractors and such.

What to do when flying with bikes.

Bicycle Touring Pro has a good page with major airline policies laid out. It is from 2008, so perhaps a bit out of date, but a good starting point.

This summer (2012) my wife and I flew with our bicycles from San Francisco to Dublin, rode around Europe for the summer, and flew back from Copenhagen to SF. We used British Airways, and they were complete rock stars about it. Free, no hassles. My bike has Ritchey Breakaway couplers in it, similar to (but better than, IMHO) S&S couplers. But I just left it together because it was more of a hassle to have to deal with the Ritchey case at our destination and the additional disassembly/reassembly. Continue reading What to do when flying with bikes.