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tobych

Mapper since:
January 16, 2023
Last map edit:
June 14, 2024

I’m Toby, it’s January 2023, and I’ve just started contributing to OpenStreetMap.

Where I live

I live on Bainbridge Island, a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle, on the West Coast of the USA. The island, in Puget Sound, has a population of around 25,000. I’ve lived on the Island for ten years, and in Kitsap County since 2009. I moved to the US from England in 2007, to live for a while at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, an intentional community in rural Missouri whose residents experiment with various low-impact building techniques, including using reclaimed lumber and straw-bale insulation.

What I do professionally

I work (@tobych) as a software engineer, often helping Data Scientists and Machine Learning folks get their work into production. I was involved with the Agile movement early on, and helped start one of the UK’s first Agile advocacy organizations. I use Python to do much of my work. That’s been useful while I’ve been learning mapping tools: for example, it’s easy for me write code to do things like connect to map servers (WMS and ArcGIS servers so far) and do interesting things with the data.

Where I’m from originally

Originally I’m from Goodmayes, a suburb of London. After finishing high school in 1988 I moved to Brighton, on the South Coast of England, to study Computer Science at COGS at the University of Sussex.

What I’m interested in mapping, and why

Unusually even for an Englishman, I never owned a vehicle for the 20 years I lived as an adult in the UK. I got around using mass transit, cycling, walking, and hitchhiking. I only learned to drive so I could get around the US when I started visiting the country in my 30’s. It’s worth noting though that when I lived at Dancing Rabbit, residents were not allowed to keep anything with a combustion engine on the property: instead the 60-or-so residents shared the use of collectively-owned (combustion) vehicles: a small family car and a large truck.

As far as OpenStreetMap is concerned, for now I’m mostly interested in contributing trails, cycling routes and bus routes to the island, to help myself and other islanders get around without a vehicle. Given how much of the coastline of the island is private, I’m particularly interested in public access to the water. And because I recently moved downtown—close to City Hall—I’m particularly interested in any shortcuts I can use to get between home and local cafes, shops, the library, friends’ houses and the all⁠–important ferry terminal.

Regardless of the environmental impact of motorized vehicles, I like walking or cycling around, coming across weird stuff, weird art, and weird people. And there are plenty of all of those things here on Bainbridge Island.

Other maps I’ve worked on

I’ve long had an interest in mapmaking, often as part of data activism. After graduating from Sussex in 1992, I worked in a research department at the University for many years, and in my spare time helped organize the production of a “Green Map” of the campus and Brighton, showing things like cycling and walking, recycling facilities and shops selling organic food. (We designed our own icons rather than use those of the Green Map System: I’m not even sure we were aware of that project at the time.)

I’ve not published any other maps since the Green Map. But I do tend to start drawing my own maps of places as soon as I arrive: I find that helps me get to know the area quickly and find my favorite cafes and the best shortcuts.