Google maps adding bike trails; directions are next

Google keeps adding data to its maps to make them more detailed.

That's good news for bicyclists who want to find bike trail routes in their cities that might take them near their destinations.

As I found from tracing some bike trails in the Seattle area, some are labeled and some aren't. Some are mislabeled. Some vanish from sight in places then reappear later. But it's a start, and the information on the Google maps is only as good as the sources. (Look for the “report a problem” link in the bottom right hand corner of maps to suggest corrections.)

See also: “Tell Google about your favorite bike trail for Street View”

Bike directions

At its Google Lat Long blog, the company tells about some of the improvements and says “…cyclists will now find many more trails and paths to explore. Soon we even plan on providing you with biking directions to take advantage of this new data.”

That's what the “Bike There” petition launched nearly 2 years ago was all about, encouraging Google to show direction results for bicycles, as well as driving, walking and taking public transportation.

The author of that blog was encouraged by this latest news:

“This is totally awesome. We heard the rumors before, but this is an official announcement. Great stuff.
“Now we’re all curious to see the first cut. If there is a city or organization working with Google to provide them actual bike-specific street data (say, on the relative ‘bikiness’ of certain streets, Class I/II/III, contra-flow routes, etc.), I haven’t heard about it yet …”

I'm encouraged that Rails to Trails Conservancy is one of the databases that Google is using.

Open secret

Cyclelicious says it's an “open secret” in the San Francisco Bay area that “a “Bike There” mapping option is in internal testing at Google in Mountain View.” A lot of people are anxiously waiting for that feature.
In the meantime, I thought I would check out some of the bike trails in the Seattle area. I found labels for the Burke-Gilman Trail, Sammamish River Trail, the Cedar River Trail, the Green River Trail and the Interurban Trail-South Trail. The Interurban Trail-North was shown, but it was mislabeled as a street in one section then not labeled elsewhere. The John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Iron Horse State Park that heads east from North Bend is even labeled.
Meanwhile, Google might be getting scooped. Ride the City is a new route-finding website that's getting ready to launch in a few cities, including Seattle. The cool thing about Ride the City is that you rate the route that it gives you for directions, so you can help improve its performance.

That picture above

As I was tracing the Burke-Gilman Trail, I checked to see if it was on StreetViews. It wasn't per se, but I stumbled across a view of the trail from an adjoining street that showed five cyclists out for a spin (two have stopped). 

I was amazed. Just a random shot of the Burke-Gilman shows five people on bikes. If I didn't know better, I would have guessed the scene was staged..


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