Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Using the NRW Cycling Route Planner

The German province of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) has an online cycling route planner: This meshes in with the Hessian Route Planner offering bicycle routing down as far as Mannheim and Heidelberg. It offers a choice of languages: German, English, French, Dutch and Polish.

We are off to the Lower Rhine shortly to visit the Floriade horticultural exhibition in Venlo and check out a route across NRW along the Rhine as part of the research to update our book: "The Rhine End to End Part 2: Basel to Rotterdam". The guide will then be published as an e-book. We decided to use the online route planner to lay out our route and report on our experience.

Using the English version it is necessary to spell city names in German not in English, e.g. Köln not Cologne. The mode of operation of the English and German versions is different. In both versions one defines the start and finish points and calculates the route which is shown on screen.  There are preferences one can apply: ignoring hills or avoiding them; following any convenient route or road, the province's bicycle network, all the named routes (e.g. the 100 Castle Route) or a specific named route.
In the English version to modify the route you insert intermediate points in  order and then recalculate the route. You can have a problem if you need to modify a route early on as you will need to delete all the intermediate points to pop in the new ones. Zooming in and out means finding an intermediate point  and clicking on it. This all gives rise to a lot of work.

Unfairly the German version is a lot easier to use. Once you have set up the route in that you can add an intermediate point anywhere and the map immediately is modified. If you need to put an additional intermediate point in the middle of the field the other points renumber. Zooming is easier as well. There is a layout similar to that of Google Maps. In addition clicking any point on the route gives you distance from the start.

You can download GPS tracks, instructions or printed maps from both versions. I found the German version easy to use and very useful.

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