Google Maps Adds "Bike There" Function | Bleader

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Google Maps Adds "Bike There" Function

Posted By on 03.11.10 at 01:55 PM

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Google launched a beta version of a new biking directions feature for Google Maps yesterday in 150 U.S. cities. It's accessible from maps.google.com, where the drop-down menu for transportation options (which appears once you put in a starting and ending address) now features "Bicycling" along with "By Car," "By Public Transit," and "Walking." If you go to maps.google.com/biking, you can also watch a short video about the new feature that explains the color coding system for streets—dark green for dedicated bike paths, light green for bike lanes, dashed light green lines for recommended routes without bike lanes—and notes that the system will route cyclists around steep hills (maybe not the most useful feature in Chicago, but in San Francisco it sure would be).

I haven't had a chance to play with the feature too much yet, but I put in a few routes and I don't have any complaints so far. (Cyclelicious has noticed a few interesting things, like the fact that it factors in road grade when calculating how long a trip will take.) There are several other options for finding bike routes in Chicago: Ride the City, which I wrote about when it launched here last year; CitySpokes; and of course the City of Chicago Bike Map, which isn't interactive but I still think is one of the best resources out there (not least because it also comes in a paper form that you can bring along on your ride). Each has its advantages, but I have a feeling I'll end up using Google's bike mapping service the most just because I use Google maps so often anyway. Usually if I'm going somewhere new I put the address in Google maps, and if I don't know a good bike route there, I check the City of Chicago's bike map to find one. I might keep checking it for a while until I'm sure the Google bike routes are reliable, but I'm guessing I'll be able to start skipping that step pretty soon.

Update: Bike Snob NYC has also weighed in on the new feature, and on the antics of clueless reporters (h/t Philip). And he's right: use some common sense, people. If Google Maps tells you to bike somewhere that you clearly shouldn't be biking, it's a sign that there's a flaw in the program, not that you should try it anyway.

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