Cyclists heading to the Continent, or across the Irish Sea, will be able to use Google Maps to plan and discover routes in even more places after the internet giant announced that its biking directions – available in the UK since last year – has been rolled out to six new countries, France, Germany, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Poland.
The feature, which was initially launched in the United States and Canada in 2010, was made available in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK last year.
In a blog post on the Google Policy Europe website, product manager Kai Hansen says: “Like in other countries, we've added information about bike trails, lanes and recommended roads directly to the map.
“In some countries we’ve worked with partner organisations. In others users have added hundreds of kilometres of biking paths through Google Mapmaker.”
Hansen also explains how it works: “I am a big tennis fan, so lets say I live in Hamburg and want to head over from my house in the suburbs to a tournament.
“I am able to grab my Android phone and ask Google Maps for the directions to the stadium. Google Maps will return a route that avoids busy streets and uses suitable bike paths.
“Time estimates for the route will be based on a complex set of variables accounting for the type of road, terrain and turns over the course of my ride. I also am able to turn by turn Navigation for my bike.
“I just plug earphones into my phone, switch over to Navigation and let Google Maps guide me through the city – just as from the car.”
The feature – to access it, just turn on the Bicycling tab under Traffic on the right-hand drop-down menu – can also be used for longer trips, rather than ones just around town, as Hansen explains.
“Of course, you can also use biking directions for a more challenging trip. As the season of big bike races in Europe has started, why not check what route Google suggests for a historical stage of the Tour de France?
“Our bicycle route for the classic stage from Biarritz to Bordeaux navigates on 206 beautiful, often car-free kilometres close to the Atlantic Ocean, compared to the rather boring 206 kilometers on the N10/A63 which is suggested for cars.”
As for adding your own information, Hansen says: “If you know about a new bike trail, please tell us. Either use the “Report a problem” link at the bottom right of the maps screen or jump into Google MapMaker and add the information to our maps.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.