On March 10, 2010, after a 2-year effort, Google finally unveiled the get-direction-by-bicycling feature on Google Maps just as the warmer spring weather kicked into gear. It had long been one of the Google Maps’ most requested features, if measured by the number of signatures in a petition–more than 50,000. Now recreational cyclists, bike commuters, as well as some in-town travelers who just rented a bike, all can plot cycle-friendly routes, find trails, and avoid snarling traffic with Google Biking.
If you’re a avid bike rider, Google Maps helps youn plan a bike ride in cities across the U.S. First go to Google Maps and choose Get Directions. In the drop-down menu below your destination, there are choices of By Car, By Public Transit, Walking, and now Bicycling. When you choose travel by bike, the appearance of the map changes to show you what streets are good for biking. Dark green lines are bike trials with no motor vehicles, light green lines are streets with bike lanes, and dashed green lines show other streets recommended for bicyclists, such as streets with slow speeds and those with light traffic. You will be riding on streets that are not too steep and more suitable for biking. Choose from several suggested routes to take the path you prefer or drag and drop the blue line of suggested path to create your own custom route. So far, Google has added more than 150 U.S. cities to the Maps and it will continue to make more available.
To be sure, the introduction of Biking for Google Maps will attract a larger audience or at least anyone who Googles the word “bike.” Ideally, it could prompt city planners to create more bike lanes and encourage more reluctant bikers to put on a helmet and get peddling. How positive an influence Google’s introduction of biking directions remains to be seen, but a bicycling-related comment by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on his official blog may have suggested that Google once again developed something right on target. The Secretary said, “Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.” He insisted that “we are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects”.
[Photo: Payton Chung]