Where can you cycle?

Tips and links for figuring how to fill a tile:

  • Get the VeloViewer Strava plugin for Chrome ( https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/veloviewer-strava-plugin/kdgpnlmocdpeckamipkkdblnfcpkgbno ). Among many snazzy features, this plugin allows you to overlay your completed squares when designing routes in the Strava RouteBuilder.
  • Big caveat! RouteBuilder and the other mapping sites such as RideWithGPS and GarminConnect do not always “know” which roads are private.
  • A good first approximation is use Google StreetView. If the StreetView car has been down a road, it is very likely to be a public road and also suitable road bikes.
  • In my area of the world, this simple approach gets me to about 90% of squares. But all is not lost! Just because a road is not open to public motor traffic, it may open as a bridleway. Google Maps and Open Street Map are not particularly good at marking bridleways. The OS maps are better but chargeable (spend £4 for one month and build a bank of routes to keep you going?). However most county councils will keep a copy of their “definitive map” of rights of way online


  • Remember it is legal to cycle on bridleways, restricted by-ways and ‘BOATs’ – ‘byways open to all traffic’. It is not legal to cycle on footpaths. I would like to know if there is ambiguity or problem in wheeling a bicycle along a footpath – there are some squares where I fear I need to do this!
  • For roads that are not public roads but are public bridleways, you often see signs saying simply “private” and you might fear that you are trespassing. In the cases where there is a public bridleway, you are not – some landowners simply don’t like to make it too obvious there is a public right of way for walkers, horse-riders and cyclists over their land. I have taken to printing out copies of the “definitive map” and bringing them on rides; just in case I get into a “discussion” with someone I meet out there – I want to prove that I made a good faith effort to stay on permitted routes.

I’m not sure ramblers tend to like cyclists all that much (gross generalisation!) but in many ways we share a common cause in being aware of and exercising our rights. Their rights of way FAQ is handy. Question 11 is about cycling – note it states that a cyclist cycling on the pavement (footway) can be fined on the spot thanks to the Fixed Penalty Offences Order 1999. As far as I know this is still true – even though Robert Goodwill (Transport Minister with responsibility for cycling) re-iterated in 2014 that cyclists should not be fined “to escape dangerous sections of road” – Telegraph article



One set of squares I have visited many many times are those on my commute from the north-west corner of Surrey to the centre of London. The route takes me to Staines, then along the A30 as far  the Clockhouse Roundabout at Bedfont and I then follow the A315 through Hounslow, Isleworth, Brentford, Chiswick and Kensington before heading along South Carriage Drive, around Hyde Park Corner, past Buckingham Palace, around Trafalgar Square before joining the East-West Superhighway at the Hungerford Bridge. [*]

I.e. my commute is exactly along the route on which Cycling Superhighway 9, first proposed in 2010, is supposed to be built. The route was kicked into the long grass in 2013, but as of 2016 the new Sadiq Kahn administration has announced a new consultation.

This is mostly good, but they aren’t even going to try to convince the good Tory councillors that it would be make sense for CS9 to join up to the EWSH at Hyde Park. Instead the consultation will be on a route from Olympia (at the western edge of K&C) down to Hounslow. On the upside, this consultation has some hope of succeeding – the consultation on a two-way cycle track on the north side of the Hammersmith gyratory has already gone through). On the downside, it is pretty horrible that we would end up forcing cyclists through the black hole of Kensington High Street – a mile long stretch of road where there have been at least 94 accidents in the last four years – search for yourself at http://www.collisionmap.uk/ – and which is a nightmare for cyclists especially at rush hour.

In letters obtained by AlexInTheCities, RBKC councillors said

  • “ our biggest concern [about CS9 on KHS] is that it would change quite fundamentally the experience of using the street for pedestrians. Pedestrians value the ability to cross the High Street at virtually any point along its length, by taking advantage of the central reservation strip”

The idea that this road is somehow pleasant for pedestrians at the moment is totally laughable. The road is full of hard-accelerating vans, buses, lorries, taxis, Ubers, and Kensington folk in their Land Rovers and Mercs as well as cyclists. Motorists by turns gaze down at their phones, jump out of side roads and accelerate through as the lights turn green.

Such a shame that dysfunctional government between this borough and the Mayor of London/TfL is going to people in danger for years to come.


[*] It’s 24 miles and normally takes me about 85 minutes in the rush hour (I still don’t fully understand how I got my PB of 65 minutes, though the fact it was at 5am with a gale force tailwind partially explains it)

Analysing the squares yourself

To get hold of the raw what-squares-have-I-visited data, I open the Veloviewer summary page in Google Chrome and press Ctrl+Shift+I to switch to developer mode. Then type copy(d3.values(explorerTiles)) to copy the data to the clipboard. Copy it into a text editor – it is pretty self-explanatory JSON format.

Lots of other data is available this way – not just the explorerSquares variable.

Once you have copied the JSON the attached Python script (unfortunately saved as .doc due to a WordPress limitation) will do a bit of analysis on it. You will probably want to mess with the last three lines of the script

  • filename – the path where you saved the JSON down to
  • The last two arguments to parse_visited_squares – these are the co-ordinates of the square you want to define as your origin. I have chosen 8146,5439 which is the top-left of my current square in the Chilterns, Oxfordshire, UK.
  • The last argument to number_to_complete. This is the biggest square you want to analyse. It should be bigger than the biggest square you have down so far. I chosen 50.


Output looks like a bit like this:

For N=39 the square with top-left at (0, 0) is complete!
For N=40 the square with top-left at (0, 0) is complete!
For N=41 the minimal solution needs 7 squares to be visited
The top left square must be (-2, -1) and the following squares are needed:
 (3, -1)
 (33, -1)
 (34, -1)
 (35, -1)
 (36, -1)
 (37, -1)
 (38, -1)
For N=42 the minimal solution needs 15 squares to be visited
The top left square must be (-2, -2) and the following squares are needed:
 (3, -1)
 (33, -2)
 (33, -1)
 (34, -2)
 (34, -1)
 (35, -2)
 (35, -1)
 (36, -2)
 (36, -1)
 (37, -2)
 (37, -1)
 (38, -2)
 (38, -1)
 (39, -2)
 (39, -1)


Explorer square links

Collected links for square exploring

About this

I am a nerdish type who likes riding my bike. Things like Strava and its spin-off VeloViewer are perfect for me. Spend all morning riding a bike and then all afternoon looking how far I went, how slowly, had I been there before, how many feet I did climb before my heart rate hit 180bpm etc etc.

I also one of those “ticker” or “collector” types who can’t help but make lists of things to complete and then try to complete them (I blame my Dad who climbed all of the “Wainwrights” in the Lake District and charted his progress for years on the kitchen wall).

When Ben Lowe of Veloviewer introduced the “max explorer” square to Veloviewer, I knew I had found my “Wainwrights”. Whenever I upload a ride to Strava, Veloviewer detects whether I have been in any new Google maps squares and paints them green in the “activities” window. And if I have been to all the squares that make up a big square of squares, it surrounds that square in blue. The size of that big blue square is my max explorer square. As I write, mine is 26×26:

ExplorerSquareFeb16To really fuel my dorkish listish tickish desire, Ben also puts together a global leaderboard of the squares with the biggest blue squares. At the time of writing I’m sixth, stranded behind four Belgians and an American. This blog tracks all the muddy fields and dead end roads I’ve cycled up to try to beat the four Belgians and an American.