Wednesday, March 10

Google adds bicycle directions to maps

Cycling blogs are all over this already, but Google has released a "Grab Your Bike and Go" feature to give cycling directions for all maps. Google's Shannon Guymon is the opening plenary speaker at the National Bike Summit and she's expected to announce the new feature this morning and give a demonstration.

Screenshot: from Jefferson's Rotunda to the Charlottesville Downtown Mall in 8 minutes

The feature
  • Identifies cycling facilities (for now in "hundreds of US cities")
  • Shows which routes are considered safer than others, including paths that have limited or no driving
  • Uses elevation grades to estimate times and recommend routes

It shouldn't be too long before many localities and non-profit organizations are able to feed their information to Google. Unlike transit routes, there's nothing proprietary about safety recommendations. Right now Google lists the Charlottesville pedestrian mall as a recommended route, although its actually prohibited to cyclists. Google accepts feedback on all of these recommendations, so we can all take part in building the most accurate and useful mapping tool.

This addition from Google coincides nicely with U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) introduction of H.R. 4722, the Active Community Transportation Act of 2010 in the U.S. House of Representatives last week.


Anonymous said...

"we can all take part in building the most accurate and useful mapping tool"

If you're going to take the trouble to contribute, then why not contribute to a non-commercial map like
(openstreet map is already more useful than google-maps for cyclists, in my opinion)

Daniel Nairn said...

That is a fair point. I'd like to spend some more time playing around with openstreet map. In theory, it would be great to see a truly open tool gain mainstream acceptance.

Additionally, there are also already some other very sophisticated commercial bicycle mapping tools available for many cities. comes to mind for the DC metro area.

Still, at the end of the day, Google is going to get this information into the hands of far more people than anything already in existence. Having it as a simple addition to the existing directions feature will expose users who are not actively searching for cycling directions. For this reason alone, I think it's worth supporting. said...

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