A short video on how well my Google Maps “Bike There” experience has been.
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I tried Google Maps to direct me from work to home. It was about half good. It ignored a Class I bikepath in favor of a busy & fast multilane street that was less than a quarter mile shorter in total. And if I’m reading the map correctly, the Class I path is in fact in Google’s database.
I give that a fail.
Car GPS directions, however, aren’t much better. If you try to go from Watsonville to San Juan Bautista, your Garmin GPS will direct you to a place where you have to make a left turn across six lanes of expressway (US 101) which is a) suicide, and b) going to be made illegal shortly anyway.
So I think there are a bunch of things that need to be done wrt automated directions (even with good maps) before you can consider them foolproof. However, if you can read a map yourself and the map is accurate …
I know this doesn’t help you in NC, but the bike community here in Minneapolis has the honor of using a new site called cyclopath
it’s used by bikers. abused by bikers. edited by bikers. no google here, my friends.
the notes are helpful and a lot of people leave their own routes that they find fun!
hope you’ll be able to enjoy something similar in your ‘hood.
One issue is that the determination of bicycle friendliness is typically done on a decentrilized scale. Where I live (Cleveland) the local planning agency (NOACA) has put together some fantastic bike maps ranking streets as safe, moderate, challenging, or dangerous but without alternative. Almost none of that data has been incorporated by Google. As far as I know, the data for Google Map’s bike feature comes from Rails to Trails, which is presumably better in some citie than others, but hardly comprehensive for every place in America.
Another Durham, NC bike commuter here. I don’t think it’s ready for primetime here, though from a software development standpoint, this is a major major undertaking, with a lot of variables, plus a lot of variation in the preferences and tolerances of riders.
In my last job, I used to bike commute from norther Durham to Raleigh, and had a stair-stepping route down into downtown Raleigh.
Not surprisingly, Google Maps’ route was different, but it wasn’t safe at all. It had me going on Glenwood Ave/US-70 E for 2.5 miles, which is not a safe route for cyclists at all.
From Glenwood, it had me going through a state park. This is a place where riders’ preferences are going to differ. The state park’s trails are crushed granite. On a MTB or Cyclocross bike, I think this is a great option. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable taking my road bike on these trails though.
All-in-all, I’ll stick with my local bike club and racing club for advice on commute routes. I don’t think I’d trust Google Maps for getting me to and from work.
Hello from Durham, NC,
My anecdotal experience has been pretty positive.
On day-1, Google Maps recommended my tried and true commute route as the best way between my house and my work. Caveat: I am an experienced vehicular cyclist who rides (mostly) unflinchingly on narrow roads with cars whizzing by at 55 mph. YMMV.
GMaps Bike routed me from another NC town 25 miles back home using two greenways I’d never been on, one of which I’d never heard of. Caveat: One of the greenways had a portion that had *just* closed for construction of a road over it. I think any mapping software/service would fail on that.
And, GMaps Bike got me from Trenton NJ Amtrak to my hotel 8 miles away on really nice, quiet neighborhood roads. Caveat: Trenton is old and consequently has grid neighborhoods making it really easy to get point-to-point without arterial roads. In other words, no major accomplishment getting that one right. 🙂
Unfortunately I couldn’t watch the video as it’s flash. We don’t get bike routing via google maps here in the UK, although some enthusiasts set up cycelstreets.net which is based on open street map data and does a very good job here in Cambridge. The government also set up their own scheme which has been widely slated and cost us the taxpayer in excess of.Â£2m. You’d think the sensible thing to do would be to use that money to help improve the “amatuer” system, anyway there’s an election soon 🙂
I’ve been using it in Austin, and it did start off a bit rough – but I’ve noticed that it has improved over the last month. The routes are getting better… They say you can use ‘report a problem’ on the map in order to tell them what’s up, though I haven’t tried myself – but guessing other Austinites are. 🙂
I’ve also looked at http://www.ridethecity.com which has been available longer in austin, but is worse for my area.
You might want to check with whatever government org in your area (probably state) is responsible for mapping because I have heard that Google works with the localities to get things right.
I tried the bike option for my commute here in Boston/Cambridge and reported to google that it suggested a route through the Boston Public Gardens in which bicycling is prohibited. I got an email back a while later saying that they’d fix it. I just checked again now and it still routes bicyclists through the Public Gardens.
I hope they improve this feature and properly integrates feedback. It could be very useful.
Here in Boston we have a just-about-definitive Bike Map which i would have hoped Google would have used as the basis for their information.
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