Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Google Maps Finally Bikes There

The 51,274 signers of the Google Maps "Bike There" petition have got their wish late last night when Google Maps quietly turned on its bike directions (beta) function and its bicycle facilities layer. The formal announcement from a Google Maps representative will occur this morning at the National Bike Summit who will discuss and demonstrate the new features.

Taking a stab at the bike directions from 4th and Locust to 34th and Spruce clearly follows the bike lanes on Spruce 22 and Walnut St and takes about 20 minutes.

The second route I tried from my neighborhood in NJ to the BCGP office. It followed River Road in Burlington County and diverted to right side parallel streets when the opportunity to do so arose. Once in Philadelphia the route followed bike lanes but took me down Broad St around City Hall. Travel times may be seen as conservative but realistic when you factor in rest stops or traffic lights or the fact that not everyone is riding on a $1000 road bike. The overall speed appears to be somewhere around 8-10 mph.

The second trip shows the difficulty of bike route planning, different comfort with traffic tolerances. Google is assuming that people will want to avoid arterial traffic whenever possible. Not everyone will be wowed by this but I think its important to realize that this is a beta test and directions will have to be tweaked with local knowledge, which Google Maps has made easy by injecting a problem link into the directions page.

Philadelphia was one of the data contributors to the project and the bicycling layer includes bike lanes in the city and major multi use paths throughout the region. This is made visible by clicking the "more" button then checking "bicycling".


Dave said...

Great article, thanks for the update. When I did a map from Valley Forge to Lafayette Hill, it did pick up the SRT, but got me there using 202 (aka Dekalb Pike); that just won't do. I sent a correction to include the Betzwood bridge, from VF Park to the SRT; hopefully they take it!

Ben said...

Notice when you search for directions, there is a form you can fill out to tell them about various problems on the route. The ones I wrote them about are 1) There is a crossing at Midvale Avenue & SRT that is not marked (they send people down to the Falls Bridge and U-turn onto E. River) and 2) Valley Green Rd. isn't connected to Forbidden Drive.

If you see problems, fill out the form so they can improve the accuracy of the maps.