Get in gear for spring biking season: New routes
Google Maps' biking directions are surprisingly good.
Thu, Apr 08, 2010 at 12:36 PM
After a long, cold, wintry, long, dark, long winter … spring is finally here! And that means it’s time to get back on the bike, out of the house and out of the car.
And just in time for the season, Google Maps has added a brand new biking feature. Now, you can choose to get directions by car, by foot or by bike. When you ask for directions “by bike,” it automatically chooses the best streets for biking — including streets without steep hills and those with bike lanes or light traffic.
Of course, a natural question is how well does it really work?
I just tested this for my ride to work and was shocked at how accurate it was — down to the little shortcuts I take on the side streets. It put me onto a street with very little traffic that I use, rather than the parallel four-lane road with a bike lane that ends abruptly. It also routed me around construction on a side street that’s been going on for a year — although I’m not sure it was because of the construction or to get me to a stoplight one street over.
And how did it know it takes me almost exactly 19 minutes to bike door to door? That’s almost creepy.
For my husband’s commute, it gave him two options — one route being 6 miles and the other 8.5 miles. The problem with the 6-mile route? It takes him through Arlington National Cemetery, where bicycles aren’t even permitted. Oops.
But the second option was pretty spot-on. Although someone should probably tell Google Maps that riding on the walking paths of the National Mall is next to impossible during tourist season. Perhaps cities without so many monuments and memorials to get around would be a little easier to map.
But besides just directions from Point A to Point B, the maps show:
Dedicated bike paths with no motor traffic (dark green lines);
Streets with bike lanes (light green lines); and
Other popular biking streets (the dotted lines).
This looks like it would be a great tool for figuring out the best way to explore a new city by bike, or even to venture to a new part of town. And what better way to spend a beautiful spring day?
— Text by Margaret Southern, Cool Green Science Blog
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