Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Biking directions on Google Maps

Yesterday we added a new biking layer to Google maps across over 150 cities in the US, which gives information about bike trails, lanes and recommended roads directly onto the map. You can also now get biking directions, taking into account various factors such as bike trails, bike lanes, recommended routes, hills and more.

We worked hard to create a simple, understandable map, in contrast to the confusing and non-standardised cycle maps commonly found in shops with dosens of colours and styles covering the map, requiring a detailed legend. Instead, we dropped back the visual prominence of the road network by narrowing the streets and turning all roads white, to use as a clean backdrop. Then we added three types of bike data in a clear hierarchy of importance:

- Dark green indicates a dedicated bike-only trail;
- Light green indicates a dedicated bike lane along a road;
- Dashed green indicates roads that are designated as preferred for bicycling, but without dedicated lanes.

We also provided support for biking data on terrain maps (which let you see the hills much more clearly) and satellite maps (where you can see exactly what you will be cycling through, using an adapted visual design):

It seems to be going down very well so far: hundreds of broadcast hits including some notable national news coverage (NPR, CNN, Associated Press, Fox, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, New York Times) and all of the major tech press (TechCrunch, Wired, CNET etc). A couple of quotes: (an online petition for biking directions on Google maps with over 50,000 signatures) says:
"Thanks to the Google Maps team that put together, what at first glance, appears to me to be an exceptional tool. The quick and accurate routing, the multiple route options, the drag-and-drop routing ability, and the bike route layer are all brilliant."

Cleveland vs the world says:
"This is great, and Cleveland is one of the cities included in this. This trail hierarchy is good, too. Excellent way of showing this on maps"

And a nice note taped to the window of our Seattle office, along the Burke Gilman trail:

Try it out for yourself at

Official post on the Google blog

More details on the Google Lat Long blog
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