Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Google Adds Biking Directions to Maps

People that ride bikes no longer have to rely on maps designed for cars or for walking. Google has added a biking directions options to their Maps. The direction picked is both for speed, safety, and ease.

"Today we've added biking directions and extensive bike trail data to Google Maps for the U.S. 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.

Let's say you want to bike to work, or maybe you want to drive less and spend more time outdoors. Biking directions can help you find a convenient and efficient route that makes use of dedicated bike trails or lanes and avoids hills whenever possible. To find biking directions, select "Bicycling" from the drop-down menu when you do a directions search:

So, how does it work? Well, I'm based in Seattle, along with the rest of the biking directions team. The city is notoriously hilly, but also has some great trails and a strong cycling community. Let's say I'm trying to get from Golden Gardens to a friend's house in Montlake:

This route avoids hills (phew!) and puts me on the Burke-Gilman trail for most of the journey. When I need to get off the trail to cross town, biking directions makes sure to keep me on bike-friendly roads and avoid some of the city's busiest intersections. The time estimate for the route is based on a complex set of variables accounting for the type of road, terrain and turns over the course of my ride. If I decide that I want to stop at Woodland Park Zoo along the way, I can click on the blue path and drag it to my desired route — just like with driving directions — and we'll still customize the journey for cycling suitability. Over on the Lat Long Blog, you can read more about all the unique tweaks and calculations factored into our routing algorithm.

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