In a move long-awaited by cyclists — and currently running rampant through the biking blogosphere — Google announced the beta version of its Google Map biking directions at the National Bike Summit currently taking place in Washington, DC.
It allows you to call up bike maps for any of 155 cities throughout the U.S., including the entire Los Angeles metropolitan area, and allows you to zoom in to show street-level detail. Like their driving and transit maps, the bike maps allow you to enter a starting and ending point, and will map out a presumably bike-friendly route “optimized for cycling, taking advantage of bike trails, bike lanes, and bike-friendly streets and avoiding hilly terrain whenever possible.”
I say presumably, because early tests have been mixed.
This morning, I tried entering two trips starting from the Coffee Bean at the intersection of Santa Monica and Beverly Glenn boulevards.
The first, plotting out a route to the Santa Monica Pier, was a disaster to put it mildly. The odd, circuitous route it suggested added 10 unnecessary turns — and nearly a mile of riding — at the beginning, when all it had to say was “get on your bike and ride west in the bike lane on Santa Monica Blvd.” Then instead of recommending the reasonably safe bike lanes on Ocean Blvd in Santa Monica, it suggests walking down a flight of stairs and riding on the walkway through Palisades Park, even though riding on the sidewalk is illegal in Santa Monica.
The second attempt, riding east to Downtown’s City Hall, proved much better. Again, it starts out with a strange loop at the beginning, when it would be far easier to simply get on the bike lane on Santa Monica and ride east. Then it follows the same route I would take through Beverly Hills, before recommending riding Olympic Blvd to Downtown — which is actually a decent route, though many cyclists could feel uncomfortable on such a busy, high-speed street. And ends by directing you to ride past the main entrance to City Hall, around the block to the Spring Street employee-only entrance.
Maybe Google assumes no one but a city employee would want to go there.
It’s a good start, and could prove invaluable down the road, giving cyclists the ability to successfully navigate their own cities, as well as visit places they’ve never gone before. Although it didn’t take long for the bike haters to jump in.
But there are a lot of bugs that will have to be worked out.
As JJ Hoffman, River Ride Director for the LACBC, put it:
Google gives you an option to email them to correct their directions. I will be exercising that option.
Other news from the national Bike Summit currently taking place in Washington, DC.
Bikes Belong launches a new campaign to unite bike riders of all types in a single voice; BikePortland says think of it as a MoveOn.org for bikes. Evidently, some members of the Senate Bike Caucus support bikes in name only; notice the lack of any members from the once Golden State. And the LACBC has sent its own delegation to the Street Summit, with meetings scheduled with a number of SoCal Congress men and women — though evidently neither of our non-Bike Caucus Senators, one of whom is running for re-election. (Note to Barbara Boxer — we vote, too.)
It was an exceptionally bad weekend for cyclists in the Southern hemisphere. A young Australian cycling champ was killed on a training ride Saturday when he failed to make a turn. Meanwhile, three “outstanding” South African cyclists were killed on a training ride when they were struck by a driver who claimed to be blinded by the sun; a fourth died later in the hospital.
One of the surviving riders succinctly summed up the horror:
“I was slip-streaming… I looked up, saw the bakkie (ed: pickup) and then it hit me. Everything happened so fast. The next thing, the paramedics woke me up and I heard the doctor telling someone to cover the three bodies with a blanket.”
The driver has been charged with homicide.
The LACBC reminds you about the ongoing input meetings for L.A. County Bicycle Master Plan, including tonight’s session at the Marina del Rey Library, where the Marina bike path crosses Admiralty Way. Stephen Box takes Metro to task for failing to meet minimal standards for bike parking at the Hollywood and Vine Metro Station. Photos from the Bike Kitchen’s 5th Anniversary celebration. Miley Cyrus takes to her bike in Toluca Lake, though she could use a few adjustments. The amazingly cool bike sculptures of Robertus Joost van der Wege go on display in Forth Worth; could be worth a trip to Texas just to check it out. Cyclists may soon be able to share Pennsylvania Avenue with the President; but maybe a bike lane isn’t always the best solution. Lance says don’t count on him to beat Contador in this year’s Le Tour. Floyd Landis finally gets a new team, though it’s a big step down for a former Tour non-winner. Oddly, a survey of motorists conducted by a car insurance company and posted on an Automotive news site shows that most drivers want cyclists to pay road fees and ride somewhere else; half also admitted to having little understanding of bike laws — evidently, the rest either wouldn’t admit it or don’t realize how little they know. Changes to Ontario’s auto insurance regulations could put cyclists and pedestrians at risk. Kiwi cyclists can now fly, as a New Zealand inventor unveils a new pedal-powered monorail. The good news, Toronto gets a new bike lane; the bad news, it’s full of cabs waiting for fares — with a traffic cop guiding them. To survive on London streets, women riders should be less ladylike.
Finally, a London cyclist was killed at almost the same time London’s mayor unveiled a new Cycle Safety Action Plan; I’ll let you know what I think about it when I have a chance to read it. And if anyone from Metro is reading, something like this could be a great outgrowth of the new Metro Bicycle Roundtable.