Google announced today that it’s offering yet another transportation mode to its robust Google Maps tool set. Now bicyclists will be able to get turn-by-turn directions in the familiar Google style that drivers, pedestrians and transit users have grown accustomed to. In addition, a new graphical layer has been added that overlays bike trails, lanes and recommended roads onto the map.
A quick glance at the new bicycling overlay really drives home L.A.’s lack of bicycle infrastructure, especially in central L.A. There’s no legend on the map, but Google’s blog informs us that dark green lines indicate a dedicated bike trail (like the Venice Bike Path), light green lines indicate dedicated bike lanes, and dashed green lines indicate streets that are preferred for biking but lack dedicated lanes. Sad but true: L.A.’s got a whole lot of roads without any sort of green line.
The algorithm Google uses to figure out bicycling directions takes into account these different preferred bike paths and goes out if its way to make sure bicyclists avoid busy roads and intersections as well as steep uphill and downhill slopes. Nifty.
Of course, Google is clear to point out that bike directions are still in beta, so don’t expect the perfect route every time. It should serve as a good guide, especially when combined with the overlay layer. Things I’d love to see Google implement in the future? Bike parking locations and directions that combine bicycling and public transit.