Ever since Harry Beck designed his iconic schematic map of the London Underground in 1933, other transit agencies have followed suit with their own abstract maps. Transit routes are shown as color-coded straight lines with sharp turns. Stops are equidistant, and the physical geography is omitted.
Navigating Tokyo’s rail transit was easy for me as a teen growing up in a western suburb of Tokyo. I just needed to know walking directions from a station near my destination. I could look at the JNR Tokyo map and quickly determine which trains to take and where to transfer.
Transit agencies create abstract maps to highlight the network structure of the system. Who cares if you’re crossing a river if all you need to know is the connecting line between two stations?
Schematic bicycle maps
Bike Walk Twin Cities publishes more traditional geographic cycling maps for the Minneapolis / St. Paul region, but they also have this more abstract overview showing a high level schematic of the regional bike network. This can be helpful when traveling among the different cities. I can then refer to the more detailed geographic maps to find the meander off of the main cycling routes to my final destination. Routes are color coded as “existing network” vs “under development network.” Besides showing long distance routes, this maps also highlights discontinuities in the long distance cycling network.
Derbyshire County in England also experimented with an abstract regional bike map (shown above). The routes are color coded like subway routes.
What about a highly geographic city like San Francisco? The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (“Muni”) famously superimposes their transit map onto a detailed map of San Francisco. But I think I like what I see in this map showing cross-town bike routes as colored bike routes. Landmarks and major intersections are shown as “stations” on this map created by Mat Kladney.
Kladny contributed this abstract bicycle map of San Francisco for a cartography symposium at UC Berkeley. He writes:
The current San Francisco bicycle map is difficult to approach, especially when answering the simple question, “how to I get from here to there?” This map has everything you might possibly want in a bicycle map in a hilly city: the grade and name of every San Francisco street, four different types of bike lane, even contour lines for every hill from Twin Peaks to the slight elevation change found in the Mission. Unfortunately by trying to be everything, it loses much of its usability. Tracking the best way to get across the city becomes more difficult when confronted with so much data. This new simplified map helps cyclists to quickly and easily find the shortest route through town.
As an occasional visitor to San Francisco, the San Francisco bike map intimidates me. Kladny’s schematic helps me determine the way for travel between neighborhood in the City. I can then wayfind to my eventual destination with the detailed map.
Need to get from Downtown to the Bernal Heights? Just follow the Blue Line. This simplicity will reframe the existing San Francisco bicycle lanes as the San Francisco Bicycle System and will help convince more people to saddle up and take to the streets.