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.”
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.