Monday, March 15, 2010 1:55 PM cstanton

Google Maps' Bike Routes + Or - ??

Almost a week ago, Google Maps added a great new feature to their directions that allow you to "Bike There."

The idea has been in the works for quite some time and it took a petition signed by over 50 thousand people to make it a reality.

Though the feature is still in beta, many new transport bike trails have been added to the system. In addition, Google Maps has noted which roads have bike lanes and which are bike-friendly roads. Google Maps encourages users to report problems with directions dealing with cycling suitability and restricted access roads, but regardless of the negative possibilities, I would like there to be an option to suggest new trails for evaluation. My hopes and dreams will probably not come to light any time soon, as there have already been a number of problems reported already.

Some reviewers in the New York Post already have reported some bugs that may prove to be "fatal" for cyclists. Apparently Google Maps got it all wrong and was leading cyclists down roads without bike lanes, even roads where the bike lanes had been sandblasted off because of protests. The streets of New York may be a little too much for the brand new feature to handle at the moment.

In the petition they ask for an option to pick the "safest route" as well. I think that this is important, because regardless of whether or not there is a bike lane or not, some roads are safer than others. It will be interesting to see how the Google maps out the safer routes as opposed to the suggested one.

In my home town, Tallahassee, I have seen a couple of trails added, but hopefully there will be more, and not just trails used for transportation. I'd really like to see some recreational trails listed so that maybe I could learn about some new ones. I understand that "Directions" are for getting from point A to point B, but I think it would be really cool to be able to plan a fun and meandering day out on my bike.

The travel path allows for click-and-drag editing of the route so that if you know where you're going and you don't like the road, then you can change the path to a more suitable one, but if you are expecting to learn something new from Google Maps, wear your helmet and be wary.

The feature still hasn't come out on the mobile maps application, but it really needs to. Running a wrong turn on a bike can take much longer to correct than in a car. If a trail is closed down and you're 45 minutes into your excursion what are you supposed to do? A 2 or 3 mile detour can take 20 minutes out of your day as opposed to a quick 3 or 4. Google really needs to make a mobile application for this.

I think that there is a lot left to be explored with this feature, but I really support it and think its a really good addition to Google Maps. Give it a try now!
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