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.