I haven't experimented with Google Maps (bikes) but it has me wondering what they really did to create this feature. I have used several mapping tools over the past year with my Garmin to create routes. When I use "automatic routing" which is basically like using google maps to pick a starting and ending destination, the mapping just takes the shortest distance, but excludes interstates and major routes that bikes are not permitted to ride on. I have found that some of the roads that are picked are very dangerous for bikes. Has Google taken on the challenge to not ony just select roads that bicycles can legally ride on, but also tracked bicycle friendly roads?
If people would read the info about the new featrue they would see it says it is a beta product right now and more development is being worked on and it will improve.
One thing that needs to be imrpoved is the ability to save and embed it like you can with other Google maps. This is only the beginning of this new feature, it will improve over time. I imagine when Google maps first came out there were similar issues with it. But giess what? It improved over time.
People, especially New Yorkers need to lighten up about this. People from NYC are way too uptight. Guess its the stress of living in a city like that. If they let something like affect their lives that much they are a sad bunch of people.
Google maps required a lot of feedback when it first launched. I have no doubt that Google will build a good product with this bike tool. I actually was talking to a buddy of mine who pointed out that this feature is probably built more for the commuter then it is for the recreational rider. For example, I have no idea what route to take to get from my home to work (because sadly I don't commute); but I have a feeling this tool will give me a good starting point. Regardless, the fact that Google took the time in R&D to create this feature speaks volumes for how far the cycling community has come. I am really looking forward to added features as Google continues development.
I tried Google Maps Bicycle option on some city, suburban and rural routes. There are still quirks in both the maps and the algorithm. I hope some of the issues will be fixed in future releases.
In rural areas it frequently uses gravel roads rather than using low traffic state routes. This is especially true of long distance routes, such as Chicago to Omaha. Over long distances, the routes suggested with the Bicycle option are often the same as one gets when using the Walking option.
It oddly also seems use some very high traffic volume streets passing through some towns.
On the plus side, it frequently offers several routes to pick from, one of which is likely to be reasonable. And it is easy to recalculate a new route by dragging and dropping some points from the initially calculated route.
It was helpful in cutting 10 miles off of a 50 mile trip from Homewood, IL to the Indiana Dunes SP, but it took a lot of manual tweeking to get there.
In both city and suburban areas, there were several odd cases where, when roads intersected, it avoided the intersection by zigzagging thru residential areas a few blocks from the intersection. It appeared to not like to route thru the stop light. In both the city and burbs routes sometimes zigzagged on and off of a perfectly good street, including some streets with bike lanes.
It is currently missing two of the longest bike paths in the state of IL ... the I&M Canal from Joliet to LaSalle (approx 60 mi) and the Hennepin Canal from Bureau Junction to Moline (also approx 60 mi) I presume these oversights will be corrected with time.
I see Google Maps bicycle routing as a useful tool for initial route planning used in conjunction with, but not instead of, state and city bike route maps.
I almost forgot the most important ( to me ) features of google maps for bicycle route planning. These are available regardless of which routing option is selected, walking, driving, or bicycling.
First, a route can be displayed along with selected points of interest. For example, the location of campgrounds, or convenience stores, or restaurants, or motels, or whatever services are of interest, can be displayed on any route you select.
Second, the mapping options produce a cue sheet.
And third, street view is generally available, so you can get some idea as to whether or not you really want to bicycle a particular road or over a particular bridge.
Yeah... I used Google bike maps this weekend on a ~ 12 miler, but I found I had to do a lot of tweaking to stay on roads that I was more comfortable with. It was helpful as a starting point, but I would make sure to do some research on the route it's spitting out before you saddle up and get to it.
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