It's about time! Google Maps has finally added a Bike There feature. They've been plugging away for awhile now on ways to get directions for cyclists that avoids hills, excessive traffic, and points you in the best directions for pedaling to your destination. After a long time of lobbying by grassroots groups (it was all the way back in 2008 that we saw the petition circulating to add the feature), we finally have a thorough set of directions for alternative transportation, rounding out the walk there and public transit features. VIEW: Green Ways to Light Up Your Bike: Good, Bad, Out There (Slideshow)
Google's Official Blog states, "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. So that's exactly what we've done."
All you need to do is hit the drop down box for selecting your transportation method and select "bike there." The directions generated will direct you along the flattest route, will help you avoid the busiest intersections, and will show you when there are bike-only trails or when there are bike lanes available on the roads. It shows you a great layer, highlighting:
- 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
More than 12,000 miles of trails are included in biking directions and outlined on the map, covering over 150 cities across the states. And more are being added.
Just how awesome the directions are, I'm not sure yet. I'll have to test it out. When I asked for directions that I thought would be sure to direct me along The Wiggle in San Francisco - the flattest route from one part of the city (the one where most the hipster cyclists live) to the Mission District - Google directed me along a different route. I changed the start location to essentially the beginning of the route and it still directed me along different streets. Hmmmmm. It'll take some playing around with this one, but ultimately, it's a fabulous start to an important new feature!!