Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bike Directions using Google Maps

At the National Bike Summit this morning Peter Birch, Google Product Manager, announced that bicycle routing will be included in Google Maps. A beta version of the product is now available at Along with directions "By car," "By public transit," and "Walking" you will now have the option to get "Bicycling" directions.

The application includes 12,000 miles of major trails from Rails to Trails Conservancy, which are shown as a dark green line. We tested the new application against Ride the City - DC and it looks like the Google app needs some work.

Directions from Reston to the County Government Center didn't include new bike lanes on Lawyers Rd or the shared use path along Reston Parkway. From Reston to Meadowlark Gardens Regional Park we were routed onto Baron Carmeron Dr and Route 7, two notoriously bad biking roads.

It will likely not be long before the Google app includes better symbology and data. If you find problems, they can be reported (see yellow box in image above). Users enrolled in the "Trusted tester program" will be able to edit the map data to improve routing results.

For more info see the Google Blog entry Biking directions added to Google Maps.

See a good summary at of the unveiling of the new application at the Summit.

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The theory is good, I suppose, but it is far from useful.

I tried a test by going from a spot near home in Tysons to downtown Vienna. Mainly to see if it knows of the back route that avoids Rt 7. Apparently it doesn't - it just routed me down Rt 7 and then 123 to get there, which is about the worst possible routing that you could imagine for someone on a bicycle.

The "trusted tester" program is one that is apparently tough to get into. Apparently you need to be invited by someone who works at google.

In a related note, there is a different project:

which allows users to make modifications and corrections to the map. I suppose there is always the possibility of vandalism. The problem with Google Maps is that some of the data they have is old, and some newer streets are missing or incorrect.
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