Bing Maps has added live images from more than 35,000 traffic cameras across the United States and 10 other nations to its online maps, giving travelers more information about their routes before they hit the road.
That means that travelers can also check those traffic cameras for live updates from mobile devices as they drive—well, their passengers can check these details at least. You don't want to be driving distractedly while checking Bing Maps as you operate a motor vehicle. Do you, now?
With holiday travel here as Thanksgiving approaches on Nov. 26, this is a boon for travelers.
Anything that can make long-distance driving or everyday commuting easier is a good thing. The cameras add another useful tool for travelers, just like GPS or old-fashioned but always-connected paper maps.
This all got me thinking.
I love to drive and travel. And when I do both, I always take along my dog-eared paperback copy of "Blue Highways: A Journey into America," the 1982 book written by William Least Heat Moon, which describes his year-long adventures driving his Ford Econoline van around the United States following his divorce. He told how he took the small, often obscure highways marked in blue on his folding maps. Moon wrote about finding himself on those roads, about figuring out who he was and where his life was taking him. It's one of my favorite books, and I bring it on every road trip I take, whether in a car or on my motorcycle.
I thought of "Blue Highways" as I read about Bing adding traffic cameras to its online maps. As useful as these traffic cameras can be, they are only located on major roads and highways. For Moon and the blue highways of America, even if such traffic cameras existed back then, they wouldn't have helped him. Then again, though, there is usually little traffic on those roads anyway.
I smiled as I ran these details through my brain. Sure, the cameras can help us avoid traffic tie-ups and crashes to ease our travel routes and daily commuting, but we can avoid the need for such cameras in the first place by staying off major roads, Instead, we can follow Moon's mantra and traverse the blue highways in our travels, seeing the back roads and local sights, rather than sitting in traffic on concrete that stretches out before us to the horizon.
Recently, I rented a car in Orlando, Fla., and I drove back roads to the Kennedy Space Center and to Cocoa Beach, just to explore and relax, not using a single traffic camera for travel information. I was slowed for a bit on a toll highway by a truck crash that blocked one lane, but once I left the highway, I was greeted by folksy local businesses along the side of the road, the Happy Food Mart, Johnson's Live Bait shack and Loughman Lake Airboat Rides.
Traffic cameras? Thanks, but I'll take the back roads any day.