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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Friday, January 29, 2010

New Metro DC bike routing application

Ride the City is a bike routing application that's been in use in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, and a few other cities:
Ride the City finds the shortest distance between two points, with a difference. First, Ride the City avoids roads that aren't meant for biking, like highways and busy arterial streets. Second, Ride the City tries to steer cyclists toward routes that maximize the use of bike lanes, bike paths, greenways, and other bike-friendly streets.
The application also shows the location of bike shops and places to rent bikes. We've been testing and providing feedback on the prototype Metro DC application for a while. The final Metro DC application is now live and available to everyone. While it provides surprisingly good directions most of the time, there are still several problems. There are many locations in Fairfax where cycling conditions are so poor that no matter what application is used, there is not a good bike route. In those cases cyclists may be routed onto major roads with high-speed traffic such as Route 50 where only the more experienced riders may want to venture.

To help the developers improve the program, select a route, then provide route feedback by selecting "route options" then "rate the route." We've found the best way to create a route is to pan to your starting location, drag the green bicycle icon to the start point, then pan to the destination and drag the red stop sign. Entering addresses in the "where from?" and "where to?" boxes doesn't always work. (See Update below)

To use the old fashioned way to get bike directions see the electronic version of the printed Fairfax County Bike Map (PDF) or the online version divided into smaller sections.

[Update 12/30/2010: Entering addresses in the "where from?" and "where to?" boxes seems to be working fine now. The comment above was based on experiences in an earlier version of the program. We should have done further testing before stating that it "doesn't always work."]

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Bicycle trip planning application

At the April 28, 2008 Fairfax County Board of Supervisor's meeting (pdf), Chairman Connolly directed staff to create:
  • An online cycling route finder to be located on the County's website under both the "Environment" and "Transportation" subject headings.
  • A route finder that allows users to either include or exclude on road routes that do not have bike lanes, if technically feasible.
As far as we know, little has been done to accomplish this task.

We did find some worthy examples. Ride the City is a bicycle route finding application for New York City that is simple and intuitive. Click on a map for the start and end locations and whether you want the safest route, a safe route, or the most direct route. The route is color-coded by facility type. You can then rate the route that is shown. Very nice.

Thanks to Adventure Cycling Bike Bits we just learned about another bike routing application in Atlanta, GA. The A-TRAIN trip planner includes options for trips by bicycle, walking, walk to transit, and bike to transit. You can adjust the route for terrain and facility type.

Before such a system will work well in Fairfax, we need better bike routes, which is the primary goal of FABB.

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