Last night Google announced the inclusion of bike directions to car, public transit and walking directions options on Google Maps. According to Google Maps’ Shannon Guymon this was one of the most requested missing features on Google Maps.
The new bike directions also provide a new view on maps (see below), one that is more “bike friendly” and emphasizes some features while de-emphasizing others (e.g., freeways, busy roads).
The directions and underlying data to support bike directions come from Google’s Street View effort as well as selected third parties that have already mapped biked trials (i.e., Rails to Trails Conservancy). Here’s an example of the difference between driving and bike directions from AT&T Park (baseball stadium) in San Francisco to the Golden Gate Park:
As mentioned, the new bike directions seek to avoid freeways, busy streets and hills and route people along streets with bike lanes or along bike trails, as the case may be. Users can drag and change bike routes just as they can with other directions on Google Maps.
The data and routing are available for roughly 150 US cities today, with more to come. Google said it would also love to be able to offer this in Europe and elsewhere around the world as well but there’s no timing on any such release.
This is not yet available for mobile devices, but will be at some point in the not-too-distant future. Google is also making bike routing and the new bike-friendly maps available to third parties through an API.
I asked Google whether bike trials and routes will also get the benefit of Street View imagery. I was told it’s very limited right now but coverage will improve. That’s partly what the Street View trike is doing, collecting “off road” data:
There are or will be Place Pages for bike trails in many cases. And users can “report a problem” to provide feedback or correct errors in bike routing. Google’s MapMaker toolset is also coming to the US, which will enable cyclists to add to or change Google’s base map data — in this case around bike trails and routes.
Among Google’s major map competitors, Bing, MapQuest, Yahoo, it’s the first company to offer this capability.