Just Like Riding A Bike: Google Streamlines Your Green Commute

More evidence that Google runs the world: they’re planning your next bike ride for you. As of two days ago, their latest mapping feature includes bike lane tracking, so that you can log in from your computer or portable internet toy – I mean phone! – and find your best route in about .2 seconds. Just enter your current location and destination, and bam: your own personal treehugger’s roadmap. Estimated travel time is included each time you calculate a route, but one of the Google guys behind the feature says that if you’re in good shape, you’ll beat those times.

You asked for it. According to the NYT’s Gadgetwise blogger, Miquel Helft, the new feature is Google’s answer to a plea that’s been ringing in biking communities for awhile now. A group called googlemapsbikethere.org, he says “has collected more than 51,000 signatures asking Google to add biking directions to its maps.” What can they say – they aim to please.

The best thing about the new feature is that it tries to offer routs that circumvent big hills, freeways, and high traffic areas. Wasn’t that nice of Google? The round-the-hill route programming will, presumably, be more useful in wavy cities like San Francisco than flat ones like New York – but the traffic-avoider one should be invaluable all over the place. It’s great news for bikers who prefer not to be plowed over by traffic, and for automobile drivers who prefer not to plow over bikers. Who knows – maybe we’re about to see Google bike mapping lower road rage rates nationwide. The feature is provided for 150 major cities around the country, and a lot of the bike trail data used to create it was provided by non-profit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.  

It goes without saying (but I feel like saying it anyway) that Google mapping doesn’t help as much with planning your morning commute if you live (New York) in a city (New York) with no decent bike lanes (New York). Not to name any names. Maybe Google is secretly trying to shame cities into improving their bike lane systems.

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