Will Google to add a ‘Bike There’ option to Google Maps

Here’s a great idea – add an option to Google Maps to show bike paths and directions in the same place you’d get driving or public transit directions. It ain’t so yet, but it could be if this petition can catch the attention of Google’s map teams. There are tons of online city bike maps, some already mashed up into Google’s maps like this New York City map. Seeing how nicely it plays puts other city bike maps to shame (Portland, Seattle – warning: Big downloads). Having bike routes available in online mapping apps would be a great step forward for many cities, and a big encouragement for those who might just go by bike with a bit more information.

I recently spent some time trying to figure how to bus down to a city a few miles away and then bike back home. The bus part was easy, but figuring out the best bike route back was a nightmare. I used Seattle’s .pdf based bike maps, but it was pretty hard to see the whole route on a single screen let alone create a cue sheet based on it. My best bet would have been to print it out, lay down several sheets side by side on the floor and mark it off by hand. Sites like Bikely and Routeslip are helpful, if somebody’s taken the time to do it right.

Of course the biggest challenge in providing bike maps for a city like Seattle is that not all bike lanes, sharrow’d streets, or other biking infrastructure links to eachother. The Bike Master Plan will help when it’s implemented, but I don’t know how Google would get around recommending a complete bike route to a location without including ‘get off and walk…’ for some portions of the ride.


And speaking of multi-modal transport, it would even be nice if the King County Metro Trip Planner had an option for “Take Your Bike” routes (like for wheelchair access).

This would plan your bus trip around stops where you’re not allowed to load/unload a bike, like some of the Bus Tunnel stops downtown, or the Ride-Free Zone during certain hours.

I suggested that to them and they have thought of it, of course, but don’t have the funding to implement the software.

FYI: There is a Microsoft Research project which overlays local area bike maps onto a normal map: http://research.microsoft.com/mapcruncher/Gallery/NWBike/

Not quite as cool as the NY City implementation but better than the generic bike maps.

This is very, very exciting. 

Even more interesting if the mapping could take into account users’ feedback on various segments of road or path, and hence change as users’ experiences accumulate. 

For instance, there are some roads that are supposed to be safe for cyclists, but whose road surface is so poor that I try to avoid them—to me they are more hazardous than the level of traffic or road configuration would suggest.  (Beach Drive in West Seattle.)  Other roads where the designation on the Seattle City bike map is a mystery: Highland Park Drive is designated an “arterial street commonly used by cyclists”—it really makes no sense to suggest that it could be used safely by cyclists.

But yeah, even with no user feedback, this would be great!

> Is that the project that made Scoble cry?

No, that would be the “world-wide-telescope” (http://scobleizer.com/2008/02/27/what-made-me-cry-microsofts-world-wide-telescope/)

The bike-map mashup is just a demo to show the strengths of MSR’s ‘MapCrunsher’ technology (http://research.microsoft.com/mapcruncher). I wouldn’t necessarily expect a larger roll-out.  However I just noticed that they have another demo, which does the bikebus thing: http://www.biketobus.com/MashupLatest/Bikethebus6.aspx.  So maybe you should lobby MSFT after all :-)

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