Google fulfilled a much-made request March 9 with the introduction of bicycle directions and bike trail data for some 12,000 miles of trails on Google Maps in the United States.
Bicycling directions appear as an option in the drop-down menu when users search for directions in Google Maps.
In my hometown, we have a popular bike trail that spans a few towns. I thought that if it was listed when I did a search from a coffee shop to a popular restaurant that it would prove the service is working. Voile!
Google correctly lists the Pequonnock Valley Greenway, aka the Housatonic Rail-Trail, as a suggested route, as it should; it's perfect for smooth riding and mountain biking alike. To enable this bike trail info, Google said it worked with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
Google also added information about bike trails, lanes and recommended roads right on the map. When users zoom into a city and turn on the "Bicycling" layer through the "More" button, they'll see three different types of lines. Here is a mini-key to decipher them:
- * 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
They look like this on a map:
This is a long time coming. For perspective, Google launched walking directions on Google Maps in July 2008, and public transit directions a year before that.
So why did it take so long to offer directions via bikes, which tend to be preferable to walking and more available than mass transit options? Google Maps Product Manager Shannon Guymon noted:
"My team has been keeping close tabs on all the public support for biking directions that's been steadily coming in, but we knew that when we added the feature, we wanted to do it right: we wanted to include as much bike trail data as possible, provide efficient routes, allow riders to customize their trip, make use of bike lanes, calculate rider-friendly routes that avoid big hills and customize the look of the map for cycling to encourage folks to hop on their bikes."
Interestingly, Guymon also said Google accounts for the type of road, terrain and turns over the course of cyclists' rides to estimate the total time it takes from point A to point B.
We're talking uphill slopes, downhill slopes, busy roads and intersections. These are all key in helping cyclists, or just casual bike riders, calculate their estimated time of arrival.
See the demo video here: