As you may have heard, Google just announced the exciting news that bicycling is now an option on Google Maps! Just select “Bicycling” when getting directions in Google Maps, or just choose the “Bicycling” layer under the “More” tab when you are viewing a map (if you simply want to peruse the biking options in an area).
Basically Google has worked with many different sources to include as much data as possible about bike-friendly routes across the country. When you select biking directions, a route is calculated based on an algorithm that attempts to factor in the specific needs of a cyclist, from utilizing bike trails and lanes to avoiding big hills. They even give you an estimate of the time the route will take, with a fatigue factor built in! When you are looking at a map with the biking layer turned on, use this key to decipher the bike-specific features:
- Dark green indicates a dedicated bike-only trail;
- Light green indicates a dedicated bike lane along a road;
- Dashed green indicates roads that are designated as preferred for bicycling, but without dedicated lanes
Of course this feature is only in beta testing right now, so take any information with a grain of salt. But we’ve been playing around with this feature this morning, and so far we’re pretty impressed. Below is a map of the area around our headquarters here in Chapel Hill; the bicycling layer does a very good job of capturing bike-only trails and also includes many roads that have bike lanes or are more “bike-friendly” (at least in larger towns):
But there’s still a long way to go with this project, and Google is looking for your support. Go online and play with the Google biking feature; try out some directions or just browse the map.
Cyclists that you are, you have the information that Google is looking for to refine this service and make it even better and more accurate (when you get biking directions, you’ll also get a prompt to report any problems or suggestions with the route). Let your voice be heard and we can make this feature better for everyone.
As the service improves, we’ll look for ways to incorporate this feature into our website, but let us know what you find while checking out your area. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new route to ride this afternoon!