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Bicycling Routes Added To Google Maps


That was fast. It seems like just yesterday we were clicking Facebook petitions asking Google to add bike routes to its maps, which previously included directions for walking, driving, and public transit only. Yesterday the internet behemoth

that, due in large part to "public support," a bike-route feature has been added. You can use Google Maps to look at bike lanes, designated bike routes, and preferred bike routes, and you can also use Google to plot bike routes around your city—even Baltimore.

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Google doesn't tend to half-ass things—its powerful public-transit directions are used by a great number of public-transit agencies, to give an idea—and it looks like it's gone rather deep with this function, creating a

that allows you to map biking routes on things such as availability of bike lanes/trails/designated bike routes, avoiding hills and crazy intersections, and bare efficiency.

It's not perfect—particularly for a city like Baltimore—and in its announcement, Google was a tad vague about where it got the information on which to base its maps. But given that all the bike routes on Google's Baltimore-area map end at the city limits, it's probably safe to say local info was coming from the City of Baltimore. (Though using the "directions" function, you can still create a Google Maps route out of the city.) After all,

the one on

City Paper

's web site, the city's own biking map is the only game in town. Unfortunately, compared to

one from Portland, Ore., it's a pretty weak map.

A couple of quick points regarding Google's local bike routes: 1) Everyone needs to get over the idea that Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is at all a preferred bike route; 2) we do have a few actual bike lanes in Baltimore, which Google omits; and 3) wow, this thing does actually sync up with a lot of my own regular routes. Also, no idea how you might figure into Google's algorithm the various places in Baltimore that, well, you probably don't want to be riding a bike—Google was a little too quick to send me through some of the gnarlier parts of Northeast Baltimore. Anyhow, you're supposed to be able to give feedback on the new function

.

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