This week I had an off day and decided to get some exercise. It is hard for me to even think about working out anymore without also considering mapping. Ever since Strava started using OSM for its routing engine and for exercise maps, I’ve been motivated to use it because a) Strava is a lot of fun, and b) I like contributing back to OSM with it.

Enter Mapillary

A new player in the OSM space that I am enthusiastic about is Mapillary. Mapillary is a service / app that allows users to shoot their own street-view imagery, and use it for OSM without fear of licensing issues. The typical use would be to attach a camera to a personal automobile and shoot street-view, but it works on a bicycle as well.

Bike Mount

Since I enjoy touring around on my bike, I thought it’d be a great to get some Mapillary images at the same time! I purchased the Topeak iPhone 5 Mount and attached it to my handlebar. The Topeak mount comes with a special case, and it can hold the iPhone in practically any orientation.

Tuesday’s Canton Ride

Driving around a neighborhood in a car seems boring to me, and is a waste of fossil fuel. On the other hand, exploring a neighborhood on foot or on a bike is fun and healthy. I decided that I would survey as much of my neighborhood as I could during the course of an afternoon with my Mapillary bike mount. It made for an interesting GPX track!


Seeing the track as a workout on the Strava iOS app, which uses OSM data via Mapbox to create the tiles was also cool to see:


In the end, I covered 16.5 miles without ever leaving my neighborhood, and rode in at least one direction on every street within the area I planned to survey.

Lessons Learned

Riding around on the bicycle and shooting Mapillary is fun! There are some limitations to using the iPhone app for capture though.

  1. The battery. My old iPhone battery does not last long. I brought a backup battery charger for this reason, though it did come disconnected a few times, causing me to have several segments on my trip. Luckily the app doesn’t seem to lose data when the phone dies.

  2. Rolling shutter blur. Unfortunately, the iPhone camera suffers from motion blur (see below) when using it as an action cam. The a jolt from a bump in the road can cause a section of the image to look blurry. The only work around for this is to get a better action camera, or get a better action camera, like the GoPro or Garmin Virb.


Once the data is in Mapillary, it is really beneficial for mapping. Now users can view the images right in iD, as I did in the screenshot below. I have already fixed some incorrect roads in the neighborhood that I hadn’t noticed before. With my images I was able to clearly see the street name, and where it ended based on the GPX.



Now get out there, get some exercise, and get mapping!

Location: Canton, Baltimore, Maryland, United States


Comment from bigopenmac on 10 November 2014 at 14:41

@ElliottPlack, you did a great work!

You could repeat your trip with camera pointed to the right.

Comment from ElliottPlack on 11 November 2014 at 05:31

@bigopenmac. Thanks! Great idea. I’ve tried it in my car but the images are usually too blurry unless the lighting is really good. I’ll try it on the bicycle though because perhaps the slower speed will result in better photos. I also put the Garmin Virb on my Christmas wish list ;)

Comment from Enock4seth on 27 November 2014 at 18:19

Great work! Will give it a shot too. :) Best.

Comment from Peter Neubauer on 5 December 2014 at 11:08

That is a fantastic blog post. I love it! Let us know if there is anything we can do to make things better at Mapillary!

Comment from ElliottPlack on 8 December 2014 at 15:43

Thanks Peter. This reminds me that I need to write a piece on using that bike mount. It is just very cold out right now and I haven’t been on the bike much :)

Comment from Steven Vance on 1 January 2015 at 20:37

I found this post because I searched for “iPhone Mapillary bike mount”. Thanks for the Topeak recommendation. I’m considering that and the DgRock Universal mount.

How fast did you go? Which model iPhone do you have? Your pictures look great.

Comment from ElliottPlack on 4 January 2015 at 05:07

Steven, glad you found the post! The topeak case is pretty great for this (considering they probably didn’t design it to be a bikecam). You can rachet it down really tight so it won’t move at all.

The nice thing about it is the case for the phone is one with the mount so there’s no wiggle room at all. With universal cases there’s usually some kind of spring or clamp to hold it there. That might work for smooth rides but if you fall or hit a bad bump it could slide out. I’ve dropped the bike and the phone didn’t come out of the mount.

I had used an iPhone 5 for the ride and I wasn’t going very fast. Average speed 10mph, just a casual cruise. I was more focused on not running over put holes I think.

I’d like to get a gopro one day because I think they’re better on the blur aspect, though my new iPhone 6 plus with optical image stabilization may fare better on bumpy roads. I haven’t tried it on the bike because I don’t have a Topeak mount for the big iPhone yet.

Cheers, Elliott

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