A team from the University of Minnesota is helping people find places to go on Minnesota’s trails. Not destinations, but “go,” as in go to the bathroom.

MN Bike and GO is using crowdsourcing and mobile devices to identify public restroom locations on an interactive web-based map.

Crowdsourcing information to benefit bike riders is a system that has worked well for Marty Cormack.

Cormack has used other riders’ reports and submissions to gather information on gaps in bike trails or on-road bike accommodations for Rochester’s active transportation plan.

“It was intended for the folks working on the plan to have as much data as possible,” he said.

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For gravel riders in rural Olmsted County, Cormack created a map of areas where bikers report being chased by dogs.

Last fall, Cormack worked with riders to document public bike racks and whether they can accommodate fat-tire bikes, which are ridden year-round.

Getting riders’ information about where people can find a public pit stop could also be handy, he said.

Kienan Otto, left, and Chris Tayler, both of Rochester, run on the Douglas State Trail near the trailhead in Northwest Rochester Monday, May 17, 2021. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Kienan Otto, left, and Chris Tayler, both of Rochester, run on the Douglas State Trail near the trailhead in Northwest Rochester Monday, May 17, 2021. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Like any crowdsource endeavor, a key to success of the program is participation and information gathered from the public.

The UM team is sharing information about MN Bike and GO with biking organizations and bike shops throughout Minnesota to get information from trail users, raise awareness about the project, and encourage other riders to participate.

The website includes a short survey that allows bicyclists to report information about the restroom’s features, such as cleanliness, toilet paper supplies, hours the restroom is open, and whether the toilets flush.

“Minnesota is a great place to ride a bike, but people often need to use the restroom during a ride, and there isn’t a good way to know where they are located or what they are like," said Donna Bliss, professor in the UM School of Nursing. “They may also not know which ones have opened after being closed due to COVID-19.”

Multiple students and U-Spatial Director Len Kne collaborated to bring the project online.