Internet giant Google will today formally unveil its long-awaited bike route feature on Google Maps covering 150 cities in the United States, including San Francisco, New York and Portland, Oregon at the Annual Bike Summit in Washington, DC.
The launch is accompanied by a video that shows just how easy it is to plot a route from A to B with a few clicks of a mouse, with the mapping application highlighting bike trails, on road cycle lanes and other recommended routes, as well as allowing users find itineraries that avoid hills as much as possible – an important feature in the highlighted city, San Francisco.
Shannon Guymon, product manager for Google Maps, was quoted on the website Wired.com as saying: “This has been a top-requested feature from Google Maps users for the last couple years,” adding, “there are over 50,000 signatures on a petition.”
News that the application, which we first reported on back in November, is finally going live has been welcomed by cycling advocates in the US, with Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, telling Wirde.com: “This new tool will open people’s eyes to the possibility and practicality of hopping on a bike and riding.”
He added: “We know people want to ride more, we know it’s good for people and communities when they do ride more — this makes it possible. It is a game-changer, especially for those short trips that are the most polluting.”
For now, however, the application is only available on computers, although Google is working on rolling the feature out to smartphones and other mobile devices, with Guymon saying: “Making the bike-route tool available on Google Maps for mobile devices is a high priority.” As yet, however, there is no GPS functionality, the absence of which is a huge stumbling to the feature going mobile.
The team at Google have evidently been busy in recent months in getting the concept to launch, with Guymon explaining: “We’ve got a five-person team in Seattle that has spent the majority of its time working on this project since October.” That team’s work has included sifting through data provided by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy on more than 12,000 miles of bike trails throughout the US, as well as collating information provided by the American League of Cyclists regarding cycle lanes.
All of that information, and other data, is put through an algorithm that decides upon the best route to take if cycling, with the suggested itinerary avoiding hills where possible, although you can drag the route on the map to include nearby hills – or indeed any other feature – if you wish.
There’s no news as yet of when – or indeed, if – the feature will be introduced in the UK, although we have asked Google for clarification on that point and will let you know their response as soon as we have it.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.