Help Us Improve Digital Map and Data Offerings

March 13, 2014

Photo by Rami Haddad

One of the items on the Routes & Mapping team's To Do list has been to improve our offerings for mobile navigation. Many users have found the GPS waypoint files that we began providing in 2003 to be helpful, though somewhat difficult to use. With many changes in technology, we think we can do better now.

With the addition of dedicated volunteer hours from Adventure Cycling Life Member Rami Haddad, GIS Specialist/Cartographer Melissa Thompson, and the rest of the Routes & Mapping department, we have been hashing out ideas and working through the development of new data to distribute.

Starting with the Northern Tier Bicycle Route, we are creating GPX track files containing navigational lines that follow our routes, including the off-road sections. These will offer a clear representation of the route that users can follow with little or no processing after downloading them from our website.

We have also created digital versions of the Northern Tier paper maps that are tagged with their geographic location. When put onto compatible GPS and mobile devices, you can see your location on them.

Photo by Rami Haddad

We are looking for volunteers to help with the testing of these formats on either GPS units and/or mobile devices. If this is something you think you'd be interested in, please read on.

We are looking for bicycle travelers who can agree to the following:

  • Ride an extended portion (minimum of 100 miles) of the Northern Tier route by the end of September 2014
  • Be willing to use the provided online form to report your experience to us in a timely fashion
  • Be available for follow-up questions from the Routes & Mapping staff to clarify feedback
  • Above all, you will need a sense of adventure and be willing to do some trial and error in the process

While you need not be an expert in GPS technology or mobile devices (in fact, we want some novice testers!), we ask that applicants have a basic understanding of their device(s). It would be especially helpful if you are already familiar with bicycle travel and have some understanding of electronic navigation and file formats (GPX, KML, KMZ, routes, tracks, waypoints).

Our data are in the following formats: GPX (for tracks) and KMZ (for map panels). Your device needs to be compatible with at least one of these data types. If you are using a mobile device, you will need to find and obtain a compatible app. If you don’t have a favorite already, we can offer some suggestions.

We will begin to distribute data and map packages in the first half of April. The packages will include a full set of GPX tracks and digital map panels.

The data will be tested for accuracy as much as possible, however some errors and device compatibility issues are to be expected. We will be available for limited support through the test period.

To apply for this great opportunity to use new mobile data and help Adventure Cycling and future traveling cyclists, please complete the GPX Data and Map Trial Application online. Testing positions are limited. The test period is expected to run through September 30, 2014. Further questions may be directed to

Photo courtesy of Rami Haddad

Photos courtesy of Rami Haddad.

GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer 'Jenn' Milyko, an Adventure Cycling cartographer, and appears weekly, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.


david bogie June 12, 2015, 12:48 PM

Hope this project went well. How about an update? Maybe post a link in the GPS forum.

Jennifer H. Milyko June 12, 2015, 1:30 PM

It did go well. The results are the products we released we released in early May of this year with more to come over time. You can read more in this blog post:

George Prentice July 3, 2014, 8:15 AM

I live in Vancouver WA. Have been a big proponent of moving beyond waypoints. GOOD GOING! I don't know if you are considering doing multiple routes. But I am planning on riding from Vancouver to Lewisville, Idaho in mid-September. If that would be of value i would be happy to help. I would love to help in some way. I am an electronics junky. Love my iPhone, iPads (4 of them)... etc.

Jennifer Milyko September 9, 2014, 12:18 PM

George, I apologize I didn't see your reply sooner. Are you getting ready to do the ride you mentioned from Vancouver to Lewiston, ID? What route did you decide on?

We are getting ready to analyze the information we received during the test outlined above so we can decide how we are moving forward with this project. Drop us a line at cartographyATadventurecyclingDOTorg with your contact information. We might take you up on your techy interest.

Carl Rea April 21, 2014, 4:03 PM

I'm starting to plan a possible trip from Seattle, WA to Washington D.C.. I will ride from 8.25.14 to 11.10.14. I would like ride on or very close to I-90 or I-94 once we hit Chicago I would like to go in direct way to Washington D.C. Do you have you mapped this route yet?

Jennifer Milyko September 9, 2014, 12:14 PM

Carl, Sorry I didn't see your reply to this blog post earlier. Are you on the road now? If you are still looking for a route, you might take a look at the individual state resources at this site: Let me know how it's going out there.

Stan Huie April 7, 2014, 8:47 AM

Let me know if you need verification of sections of bike route 1 or other routes in Virginia.

Jennifer Milyko September 9, 2014, 12:09 PM

Thanks! Not sure when we'll be at the stage we need more help but it's to know. You can drop us a line at cartographyATadventurecyclingDOTorg with your contact info.

Aaron W March 13, 2014, 6:26 PM

Great news. I'm glad ACA is moving in this direction.

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