Much Improved City of Madison Bike Map, with 1 Pet Peave

The City of Madison just announced their new website for all things biking in Madison. The first thing I had to check out was the updated printed bike map for 2011, which is available as a PDF download. I use the print map much less now that Google Maps show most of the routes and has bicycling directions, but I was very interested to see what they have done with the 2011 print edition.

My immediate reaction – Wow, such an improvement! It’s more legible than ever before, and the styles used make the bike routes easier to follow. The bike routes are promoted in the visual hierarchy, but best of all the different types of routes (bike path/lane/route) are more intuitively styled.

Madison Bike map - 2009 vs 2011

2009 edition on left, 2011 edition on right (click to view full-size)

In the old version I was constantly referring to the legend because I could not remember the difference between dashed lines with diamonds, squares, ovals, or circles. Compare the legends:

 Madison Bike Map Legends

2009 map legend on left, 2011 legend on right

So while commend the city of Madison for a nice improvement, I do have a big pet peave that this map illustrates nicely. After spending some though and consideration to the map styles, using a nice color palette that is pleasing to look at, the cartographers inserted a giant default north arrow and scale bar from ArcMap, then proceeded to place them right on top of a neighborhood, just inches from a blank area on the map void of any streets. I know that’s Middleton, but I’d like to see it moved to the cornfield just to the south.

There are plenty of ways to make a nice north arrow and scale bar inside ArcMap, and this map was saved our of Illustrator which has even more ways to customize these graphics or draw something from scratch.

At least the number on the scale bar are an even mile – I also see a lot of maps (Esri UC map gallery) with a scale bar that uses non-integer values such as 0.8 miles, only because that’s what ArcMap inserted and the cartographer didn’t bother to change it.

Nobody likes to hear complainers that don’t have any solutions, so here are a few:

  • ArcMap inserts the scale bars and north arrows somewhat proportionate to the size of the data frame, so on poster size wall maps, the inserted object is often comically large. Change the size!
  • Don’t like the North arrow selection in ArcMap? Build your own and insert it as an EMF file.
  • Change the colors.
  • Convert North arrows to graphics and ungroup to manipulate the graphic further.
  • After placing and sizing the scale bar, change the When resizing setting to Adjust width. This will prevent the scale bar from switching to an awkward division value like 0.8 if you change the map scale slightly or when you export (sometimes it switches upon export).

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