Cycling Coming to Google Maps in Los Angeles…Today?

Screen_shot_2010_03_10_at_7.24.25_AM.pngMy current Google Map of the Bike Route from my current home to my new home.

The bike blogs and even some traditional news outlets are buzzing with the news that Google Maps will be launching a "bike directions" application later today at the National Bike Summit in Washington in 150 cities, including Los Angeles.  The New York Times reports:

Much like the driving and walking directions on Google Maps, the
service selects a route and calculates estimated cycling times after a
user provides start and end points. The routing algorithm attempts to
select optimal directions that avoid freeways and busy roads and
intersections, and take into account bike paths, bike lanes and
bike-friendly streets. They will seek to route around hills, whenever
practical. Google Maps will also offer a “view” geared for cyclists
that will display bike-friendly routes. A mobile version is likely to
follow soon, said Shannon Guymon, a product manager for Google Maps
Directions.

Google also has a video up on You Tube, explaining how the application works.  It’s a nice, friendly video and might be worth checking out even if you are tech savvy enough to figure out to use this google maps application without a primer.

 I’m going to be spending most of today working on the new house, and I’m not sure when my Internet is getting hooked up.  As soon as I have a chance to try the biking directions, I’ll post a review.  In the meantime, please re-map your own routes and let me know how Google Maps does providing a safe and convenient route for Los Angeles’ cyclists.

  • It’s a good thing… but I think that Google is trying to head off an exodus to more useful mapping open-source crowd-source mapping applications – think wikipedia meets Google-maps.

    (Shameless plug – come to the StreetSummit on March 20th and attend Zane Selvans’ workshop on this: http://bikesummitla.wetpaint.com/page/Crowd+Source+Bike+Mapping )

  • I went to the Google Maps Biking page and, for some reason, I’m not provided with an option to choose Bicycling for directions. I only have the choices of by car, public transit, and walking. And on the More button options there is no option for bicycling.

    I’ll try again later in the day.

  • David Galvan

    REALLY?! This would be absolutely fantastic!

    What I have been doing instead is going to Bikely.com and browsing through other bike routes that people in the L.A. area have posted. It’s a good way to find some little-known good bike routes, but it takes a while to thumb through the many options, and it doesn’t address your specific origin/destination locations.

    I would also use the “walk” option on google maps, and then modify accordingly, comparing to the MTA’s bike map.

    This of course would all be made absolute if Google includes cycling directions!

  • John Tangenberg

    I find the routes the map is giving me concerning, I am routed further on more heavily trafficked streets than the shorter lighter traffic streets. The more heavily trafficked streets all have national retail chains on them. Is google routing me past advertisers rater than helping me find a short safe low traffic route?

  • David Galvan

    Just tried it out! It works great! I don’t know at what point in the future Google will go from being sage-like force for good to evil Big Brother, but at the moment I love that this company exists!

  • So I got curious and checked out the google maps bike option, which did work for me… and it’s interesting. It’s nice to actually see a few green lines that represent places that are more-or-less good to bike!

    Many of the bike facilities in L.A. are there, but not all. Recent lanes on Reseda and Myra are missing (I guess the google folks don’t read L.A. Streetsblog) as are portions of the Rio Hondo, Sepulveda Basin and Arroyo Seco bike paths (I guess they didn’t read my book, either.) It shows bike lanes that don’t exist – for example on Motor Ave (in the ~1 mile gap between the existing lanes there.)

    There are quite a few stairways and walkways mapped… but some of the ones I use are missing. When I mapped the ride I plan to do later today (from Eco-Village in K-town to CICLE in Glassell Park) it sent me up a hill on the north end of Fletcher Drive, instead of crossing the freeway at Estara – a much easier route that lots of cyclists use.

    Yah – it’s beta and it was apparently mapped/developed by someone who doesn’t actually bike on L.A. streets. Looks like it’s probably no more or less accurate than the L.A. City bike plan draft or the Metro bike map (which are both full of sloppy errors.) Now, if only it was some kind of open-source wiki-mapping – instead of proprietary data, I’d just go in and fix these errors myself.

  • Anon

    I’ve tried it — it’s going to take a lot of input from cyclists. The maps I’ve seen for Los Angeles, I would never use on a bike. And a lot of good side streets are ignored by the function.

  • mandor

    It seems like it still places priority on the shortest route (over the less trafficked route). It’s worth going a few blocks out of my way to not be on a super busy street. I appreciate the bike lanes showing up on google maps now, though.

  • Personally I don’t know if this will be useful yet, since I already take bike routes with a grain of salt. I even wonder if it will cause some novice cyclists to have a bad time out there. Yes, you can bike from downtown to my house using Beverly, and yes, it’s an official bike route, but noooo, Google maps, I wouldn’t recommend it during most of the day, especially since it’s been ripped up for construction for over a year. Ultimately the best routes come from people who’ve been biking the area for a long time, and even those routes vary over the course of the day according to traffic flows. If Google can actually draw on that local knowledge and provide it for everyone, more power to them. Looks like I’ll have to attend that Street Summit panel Joe mentioned!

  • UrbanReason

    Kind of useful for quickly seeing what an embarrassment the current state of formal bike infrastructure is in most cities!

  • Evan

    I tried out my route from Santa Monica to Westwood, and it told me to take Ohio (fine), go left on Sepulveda, and then right on Wilshire. Um…no thanks. You can leave suggestions for better routes, and I said continue on Ohio and left on Veteran.

  • Be sure to report any bike lanes that are missing from the map to Google. For example the bike lane on Myra from N Hoover to Fountain is not on their map. I reported it to Gooble. Hopefully they will list it on the map soon.

  • Well . . . no matter how many times I’ve tried it, it doesn’t give me an option for Bicycling. I’ve tried clearing my cache several times, but still — no. Guess I’ll try again tomorrow.

  • Michele Chavez, Im having the same problem. The options are available to me on internet explorer, but not firefox.

  • Joseph E

    Some of the problems with Google Maps are actual problems with our local bike routes. Her in Long Beach, PCH is a bike route, so Google will suggest you take it as a good route. Unfortunately, until there are some bike lanes or Sharrows or lower speed limits, PCH is not my preferred route.

    I have already submitted some missing pieces for Google to add, including the 2nd St sharrows / bike route, and the new bike lanes in Alamitos Beach in 1st and 2nd, in Long Beach. I read at the NY Streetsblog that a few problems were fixed by this evening, which were reported today. I’m sure Google will be quick to take our suggestions, if a few people mention the same problem.

    But these maps also show the need for more and better bike infrastructure all over LA County. Compared to Portland (http://tinyurl.com/ybghhqb) or even Sacramento (http://tinyurl.com/y87jw9n), we have a long way to go. At least the deficiencies are right out there in the open.

  • Eric B

    Another problem is that it’s impossible to define the “best” bike route between two places because that depends on the cyclist. Maybe we all agree to stay off Wilshire near the 405, but I’d still rather pedal on an arterial and stop for every 3rd light than take a side street and stop for 15-30 seconds every block, assuming there’s even a traffic signal. I also typed in my old commute from Culver City to USC and it had me taking alleys (not even side streets) that had no way across the major boulevards. It’s a great step, but still needs a lot of work to actually become useful.

    One suggestion for more advanced future versions: a sliding bar that lets you set your preference between directness and bike-friendliness. I’ll go a mile out of my way for a good route, but not much more.

  • Jass @ 14: That must have been my problem! I am using Safari on a Mac. I REALLY don’t want to have to use Internet Explorer. I hate when websites force me to use that.

  • PS – Just tried it again with Safari and Opera and both now show Bicycling. But, the first route I tried was really crazy! My own experience shows me that the best way to get from my house on Edgewood in West Palmdale to 10th St West and Ave L-8 in Lancaster is to take Hubbard to Ave P-8, which becomes 15th St West, 15th St West to Ave N, Ave N to 10th St West to Ave L-8.

    Ave P-8 is a very wide, extremely lightly traveled street. Once it becomes 15th St West and goes past a very lightly traveled entrance/exit to the AV Mall, it becomes a private, lightly traveled road. Ave N is narrow and busy, but you’re only on it for a little bit, then 10th St West is very heavily traveled and 50 mph, but has a shoulder that’s okay for biking.

    Here’s the crazy route Google Maps gave me: Edgewood to Virginia to Ave P-12 to Rockrose to Bottlebrush to Mondell Pine to Cork Oak to Bulldog/P-8 to 20th St West to Ave P/Rancho Vista to 10th St West to L-8.

    What’s crazy about that route?

    Rockrose/Bottlebrush/Mondell/Cork Oak are all little residential side streets. Lots of silly twists and turns for no reason. Quiet, but no reason for all that.

    20th St West is okay at this point. It’s still wide and hasn’t narrowed down to 2 lanes yet. But, the part it tells me to ride on Ave P/Rancho Vista is the busiest part of Rancho Vista in town! It’s on the crazy part in front of the Mall where the speed limit is 50 mph and the 3 lanes on each side are all narrow, especially the outside lane. Anyone who rides a bike here rides it on the SIDEWALK.

    Then, it tells me to make a left turn onto 10th St West. This is the BUSIEST, CRAZIEST intersection in Palmdale! I’d have to cross 2 or 3 50-mph lanes of traffic to get to the left turn lane. Once you turn left, you have to go by another busy exit from the Mall and then pass the entrance to the northbound 14 Freeway. Past that, there are big shopping centers on each side with their entrances/exits. Lots of crazy driving goes on here.

    I’ll try it again for another route, but if it keeps giving me routes like this, it isn’t going to be very useful.

  • David Galvan

    To all those who think the routes suggested are “crazy”: keep in mind that this is just meant as a tool to help plan a bike route. Everyone is going to have their own preferences for which route is best.

    The bottom line for me is that I will be using this as a convenient first-guess at a good route. And since it’s google maps, you can easily drag parts of the route to suit it more to your liking. Very convenient.

  • David @19: Sorry for my overreaction above. You’re right – it will be a tool for planning a route.

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