Mobile phones and tablet PCs could soon join the humble bike pump as an Australian cycling essential if a plan for an online map of the nation's bike and hiking trails gains traction.
The concept, devised by the nation’s leading location intelligence specialists Esri Australia, would show riders the most scenic track to take, where they could undertake emergency repairs, or even help them locate the nearest pub for those with a hard-earned thirst.
Esri Australia’s Professional Services Manager for South Australia and self-confessed cycling tragic Andrew Fellows peddled the innovative concept at the national Tracks and Trails conference in Sydney today as a response to the huge growth in recreational cycling.
The 2011 Australian Bicycle Council Annual report lists cycling as the nation’s fourth most popular recreational activity; recreational cycling has been increasing at a rate of around 20 per cent each year for the past five years.
Mr Fellows said the sophisticated mapping system could potentially promote local businesses and help coordinate track maintenance, as well as deliver useful information to cyclists and hikers.
“Our vision combines Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, GPS, mobile devices and a centralised website to create the ultimate interactive track and trail information hub,” Mr Fellows said.
“It would enable riders to search for tracks that suit their skill levels, the length or time they wanted to ride, or the trail’s proximity to their home or office.
“They could also register for messaging services, so a restaurant might let them know about the daily lunch special as they approached its location.
“Tour operators could use the map to partner with other businesses on a trail and develop a service that encompasses all the local wineries, for example, or nearby artisan shops.
“Maintenance tasks could be recorded, logged and scheduled, with messages automatically sent to contractors’ mobile devices when jobs need to be done.”
Mr Fellows said the nation’s tourism industry could also use the technology to tap into the growing worldwide trend for cycling tours.
“Australia has an abundance of visually stunning bike and hiking tracks,” Mr Fellows said.
“Cycling is a popular niche market that bundles perfectly with backpacking and wine tours, so the map could have huge benefits for regional areas looking to broaden their income base.”
Mr Fellows said Esri Australia already had the technology needed to get the map up and running and called on holders of track and trail data to join the ride.
“Esri Australia has single user desktop applications, enterprise-wide server software, and mobile solutions to collect and upload data and present it in an accessible format,” Mr Fellows said.
“Most of the data - such as maps of Australia’s tracks and trails, facilities and services, and local business information – also exists.
“At the moment the challenge is for everyone to come together and decide how to move this initiative forward.”
Bicycle SA CEO and Track and Trails conference host Christian Haag said the proposed mapping site would encourage more people to take up cycling.
“Many people would like to ride more but are unsure of where to go,” Mr Haag said.
“A single, easily accessible portal of the nation’s riding tracks and trails would help address this and introduce more people to what is a healthy and fundamentally fun activity.”
The sixth national Track and Trails conference is being held from 31 August to 2 September at Sydney Olympic Park.