Finally! Google Maps has bicycle directions!

Google LatLong
Our biking directions are based on a physical model of the amount of power your body has to exert given the slope of the road you're biking on. Assuming typical values for mass and for wind resistance, we compute the effort you'll require and the speed you'll achieve while going uphill. We take this speed into account when determining the time estimate for your journey, and we also try hard to avoid routes that will require an unreasonable degree of exertion. Sometimes the model will determine that it's far more efficient to make you ride several extra blocks than to have to deal with a massive hill.

So far I find many of its suggestions sub-optimal, but not too far off from reality-as-I-recall-it. I like that it sometimes offers alternate routes, too -- I hadn't noticed that maps started doing that.

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24 Responses:

  1. pfrank says:

    yeah that's pretty great. I can't wait for the update to trickle down to the Android maps app.

  2. alex_victory says:

    Odd. I get the new "Bicycling" drop-down option in IE and Firefox, but not in Chrome.

  3. allartburns says:

    Pretty broken for Pittsburgh -- it doesn't appear to take into account bike lanes. So it sends you on a long, roundabout ride on flat streets that are high traffic / high speed instead of down slower roads with bike lanes but more hills.

    • strathmeyer says:

      Yeah, does it know about brick streets?

    • simmonmt says:

      It seems to take bike lanes into account in other cities.

      Maybe report the problem using the Report a Problem link below the directions? It could be that it decided that the detour to use the bike lanes isn't worth it in the case of your route. Or not.

  4. spoonyfork says:

    Does it ask if you are a hipster on a fixie to direct you to the most authentic streets to pedal down while smoking a clove or texting on an iPhone?

  5. It's interesting how asymmetrical its directions are when you swap origin and destination.

  6. jwz says:

    It told me that I should go North on 5th and turn left on Harrison, which is life-threatening to do in a car let alone on a bike. And if you take your bike through the crosswalks, the 5-way stoplight is timed so that there's no chance of not having to wait several minutes no matter when you arrive.

    Then it told me to continue down Harrison past 9th, which is an intersection with two right-turn lanes, meaning the only safe way to go through that intersection on a bike is by crossing over into the 3rd westbound lane (of 5).

    These directions suck, life-expectency-wise.

    These intersections should be marked with a skull an crossbones instead of recommended.

    • strspn says:

      On one hand, I'm hugely appreciative and grateful that Google is attempting this, because nobody has tried much geocoding for this before. Streets and highways geocoded for cars have been accumulated by various government agencies since the late 70s when CAD started being used for civil engineering.

      On the other hand, given the reports of really bad route suggestions, I feel very ambivalent about how much I want them to tune it before they enable it on mobile platforms.

    • davidglasser says:

      Er, I'm pretty sure that you only need to go to the second-from-the-right westboard lane on Harrison at 9th, as it's a "turn or straight" lane... (Assuming you take the full lane of course.) I agree that that 5th St turn is madness, but I bike down Harrison through 9th (usually turning directly into that second lane from southbound 8th) all the time...

      • wisn says:

        Right, but that's not what Google McMapbot recommended first. If you had been trusting Google's directions, you'd be paste. If you already knew where to turn, you were checking the quality of the reference.

        I tried my route to work, and Google recommended the shortest route as optimal, which is great and commonsensical and sends a cyclist a mile up a highway of four-lane traffic too narrow for trucks to pass each other. So, yeah, I filed a report on that, too. My route takes me about a half-mile out of the way, on a quieter road through rolling hills.

        It'll eventually get better assuming Google's assigning the manpower to handle all these zillions of reports, but for now it's more of a curiosity.

  7. scullin says:

    The primary directions it gave for me getting to work were reasonable enough, but the alternates were just loopy, including going out of the way to get on the expressway, just so I could backtrack on a bike path, and crossing back and forth over El Camino (an interminable process) for no apparent reason. Stoplight durations can be a key consideration when plotting a bike route.

  8. loftwyr says:

    It's not enabled in Canada. Then again, Canadian transit directions are still in their early stages.

  9. incster says:

    Here in Helsinki, the Journey Planner has excellent support for cycling. This is what you can have when cycling is given reasonable priority.

  10. ultranurd says:

    I played around with it for Boston. Right now it misses some marked bike paths/lanes, and sometimes selects a walking path over a bike path (this is probably just lazy annotation in their source data). It also doesn't seem to include explicitly signed street bike routes, such as the directions between Alewife T Station and Harvard Square/Charles River. It does not correctly handle counterflow bike lanes (there are a few in Cambridge; the bike lanes are marked, but are assumed to go in the same direction as the one-way street they're on).

    It does a good job of matching some of my own choices for avoiding major intersections; I assume that's just based on the marked "arterialness" of the roads as opposed to any manual inspection of intersections. There aren't many hilly routes to test in Boston/Cambridge though.

    Do you think we'll reach a point where Google knows things like the timing of a light cycles for left turns, intersection visibility, pavement quality, and the availablity of instant button-activated crosswalk lights?

    • latemodel says:

      Who in Cambridge folows the marked direction of the street, much less the bike lane? I can recall nearly running head-on into another cyclist who was biking uphill, against traffic, against the marked direction of the bike lane.

  11. pdx6 says:

    It would help if the bike directions would indicate the best side of the street to be on. For example, it's best to stay to the left on 4th street due to the freeway on ramp. Skull and crossbones for you if you try to compete with traffic bound for the ramp!

    For whatever reason, the bike feature likes to suggest zig zagging through SoMA when it is much more sane just to use bike-friendly Market. I imagine the SFbike folks will contribute a lot of suggestions to improve this new feature.