Seems like Google is always adding something to their search engine and this time they've added to Google maps. The new feature, Bike Maps, allows you the option to get directions not just for traveling by car, foot or public transit, but for traveling by bike as well. If you're riding your bike to a destination, you're more than likely not going to go to the same route you would if you were driving a car and Google is looking to serve those people.
"We wanted to include as much bike trail data as possible, provide efficient routes, allow riders to customize their trip, make use of bike lanes, calculate rider-friendly routes that avoid big hills and customize the look of the map for cycling to encourage folks to hop on their bikes. So that's exactly what we've done," said Shannon Guymon, the product manager for Google Maps.
The over 12,000 miles of bike trail data came from Rails-to-Trail's Conservancy's database at TrailLink.com. The group, which is a nonprofit organization located in Washington DC, has been collecting the information since 2000 and has gathered maps, pictures, descriptions, and listings for over 30,000 miles of bike trails. According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, biking has become more popular lately because it's healthier and less expensive than other options.
Google incorporated the data into its routing algorithm, included metropolitan areas with designated bike lanes and roads that were recommended by other cyclists, and took into consideration how busy certain roads are. Oh yeah, and there is the matter of hills.
"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," said Google software engineer John Leen.
Google Maps for bikes launches today and as you can see from the picture above, all you need to do is choose "bicycling" instead of one of the other options ("by car" is the default option), when you go to look for directions.
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