Soon to be added to the Google empire are “Bike There” directions on Google Maps, offering cyclists information about nearby bike paths, lanes and trails. The announcement garnered no more than a sentence and a half in a larger company update, but has many in the cycling community waiting on bated breath.
Since adding the ‘Take Public Transit” option to Google Maps, Google has regularly shown site visitors that their trip can be accomplished outside of a car. With 22% of the online map market share, Google’s endorsement of public transit and its efforts to make it more accessible are a resounding boon for sustainable transportation. “Bike There” would take that multi-modal approach a step further, by offering non-motorized users directions that encourage the use of bike-specific infrastructure. “Bike There” directions would also reinforce bikes as a viable and appropriate means of transportation, especially in urban areas.
Several good map services already exist for cyclists, including Ride the City in NYC. But Google would become the largest provider of cycling directions, and the most likely to attract new riders. Cities that are trying to reduce traffic and pollution by promoting cycling would do well to assist the Google team if requested. Similar to the way that Google’s transit directions rely on information from transit agencies, local knowledge of biking conditions and frequent changes to the cycling network in some cities means that local input may be important for this feature to succeed.
Much of the impetus for the feature arose from an online petition that has been circulating the Internet for over a year. To sign the petition, visit googlemapsbikethere.org.
Image: Via Google Maps ‘Bike There’ petition.