There’s a Map for That

Whether you bike to work or bike to work out, Google Maps can help.

While you probably know how to get to and from the office in your car, the online search giant’s enhanced mapping software can help you avoid busy thoroughfares when you’re on two wheels.

“This is a huge step forward for bicycling,” Biking Las Vegas Lisa Caterbone recently declared after the technology was released. “I commend Google for encouraging people to get onto their bikes.”

Google’s new tool estimates the time it will take you to ride to your destination, just like it does for drivers and bus riders. The feature was designed “to include as much bike trail data as possible, provide efficient routes, allow riders to customize their trips, 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,” Google says.

Just select “bicycling” from Google Maps’ “more” tab, and the Web-based map graphic automatically highlights cycling routes for you. Bike-friendly roads and paths are highlighted in green—solid lines for dedicated bike lanes and dotted lines for other streets that, while not dedicated, are still recommended.

The feature was more difficult to develop than vehicle-based routing software because engineers had to consider hills, busy roads and intersections, yet developers created a route-generating algorithm that avoids big hills and traffic (as long as the detours don’t take cyclists too far off course).

While not perfect—“Google did lead me down some pretty sketchy roads,” Caterbone says—the mapping system is a step (or in this case, a turn of the pedal) in the right direction.

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