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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Google Bikes

Posted By on Wed, Mar 10, 2010 at 6:32 PM

With the help of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Google Maps now offers biking directions on its maps. The mapping and directions functions follow the same process one would enter for walking or driving — but now users can choose biking from the drop-down menu and get the best or suggested routes.

The directions feature provides step-by-step, bike-specific routing suggestions — similar to the directions provided by our driving, walking, or public transit modes. Simply enter a start point and destination and select “Bicycling" from the drop-down menu. You will receive a route that is optimized for cycling, taking advantage of bike trails, bike lanes, and bike-friendly streets and avoiding hilly terrain whenever possible. Just like Google pioneered with driving directions, you can click-and-drag your route to customize it as you’d like. You can also access the other features in Google Maps, such as Street View, so you can tell exactly where you might need to turn on your route or preview how wide a bike lane is, and Local Search, so you know where you can take a water break or where the bike shops are along your route. Biking directions provides time estimates for routes based on an algorithm that takes into account the length of the route, the number of hills, fatigue over time, and other variables.

The new bicycling layer for Google Maps, accessible via the “More…” drop down menu at the top of the map, will display an overlay of the various bike-friendly roads and trails around town. The layer is color-coded to show three different types of paths:

- Dark green indicates a trail;

- Light green indicates a dedicated bike lane along a road;

- Dotted green indicates roads without bike lanes but are more appropriate for biking, based on factors such as terrain, traffic, and intersections.

The RTC, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit working to transform abandoned rail lines into community-accessible biking and walking trails, has offered Google use of its 1,600 rail-trails, with information for more than 12,000 miles of trails. The group visited New Orleans last month to workshop the Lafitte Greenway, a three-mile linear greenspace linking Treme to Lakeview.

The only color-coded layers available to the New Orleans maps are the established trails in Audubon Park and along the River Road levee. You can, however, still get a pretty decent suggested route. For example, here's the suggested route from Gambit to the French Quarter.

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