Google Maps is again expanding its bicycling directions services for travelers by adding six more European nations to its roster of countries where the popular feature is available.
"Back in 2012, we added biking directions to our maps for a number of countries in Europe," wrote Kai Hansen, a Google product manager, in a May 27 post on the Google Europe Blog. "It proved to be a popular feature among cycling amateurs and enthusiasts. We're now delighted to announce that we are now enabling biking directions in Google Maps for Germany, France, Poland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein."
Google Maps first added biking directions to their maps for the United States and Canada in 2010. The 10 European nations added to the program in 2012 were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. The directions are available using a desktop Web browser or through an Android mobile app that gives turn-by-turn and voice-guided directions in real time for travelers on the go.
By August 2012, more than 330,000 miles (equal to more than 530,000 kilometers, or half a gigameter) of bicycling routes were listed in Google Maps, according to Google. The dark-green lines on the maps show dedicated bike trails and paths where motor vehicles are not permitted, while light-green lines show streets with bike lanes. Dashed green lines show other streets recommended for cycling, and bicycling navigation services even help riders avoid steep hills.
"Like in other countries, we've added information about bike trails, lanes and recommended roads directly to the map," wrote Hansen about the newly added bicycling directions. "In some countries, we've worked with partner organizations. In others, users have added hundreds of kilometers of biking paths through Google Mapmaker."
The Google directions for bicyclists provide routes that avoid busy streets and use suitable bike paths, according to Hansen. "Time estimates for the route will be based on a complex set of variables accounting for the type of road, terrain and turns."
Travelers can also add their own comments and input to the maps by contacting Google Maps or by using Google Map Maker, where ordinary citizens can add valuable cartographic details about locations and businesses on Google Maps. The entries are reviewed and must be approved before they are available to other users under the program.
Google Map Maker, which launched in 2008, has been adding new nations since it began to bring the capabilities to many more users. It was launched in the United States in 2011 and today includes maps for more than 200 countries and regions, according to Google. The U.K. was added in April 2013.
Map Maker allows amateur cartographers to visually mark locations and add detailed information to Google Maps data, which helps make Google's own maps even richer. Users can detail their favorite local restaurants, malls and shops, or even mark town bike lanes. Users can also access Google Street View imagery directly in Map Maker and access advanced search options to display finer details such as railroad tracks.
Google Map Maker is available in 59 languages for users, including Bulgarian, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish and Swahili.
In January, Google Maps began receiving contributions from "citizen cartographers" in North Korea to improve the detail of Google Maps in that nation, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The map data provided details of many little-seen areas in that nation through the help of the volunteers. North Korea had long been one of the largest places with little map data, according to Google.