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Google Doesn’t Understand Biking

Google Maps Launches “Bike There” Function with Inconvenient Routes

Yesterday, Google Maps launched the much-awaited “Bike There” option.

After several years of vigorous activism, lobbying, and  hard work by thousands of people and numerous organizations, it is now possible to select “bicycling” in addition to the driving, walking, and public transportation options when searching for directions on the most popular internet mapping site.

The new Google product was announced yesterday at the League of American Bicyclist’s annual National Bike Summit. According to Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists “we know people want to ride more, and we know it’s good for people and communities when they do ride more – this makes it possible. It is a game-changer, especially for those short trips that are the most polluting,”

I’m thrilled, giddy, even twitchy with excitement about this development, indicating something of a “critical mass” of support for the most efficient form of transportation ever invented.

Cycling advocates in Austin started a petition called “Google Maps, Bike There” in order to unite supporters of the biking option, reaching 50,000 signatures last year. Their website contains a great list of reasons why the inclusion of bicycle directions in Google Maps would be beneficial to individuals, communities, and our society.

The directions are still in beta so riders are urged to use caution. I immediately checked the directions to tomorrow’s planning meeting for the Three Rivers Bioneers Conference and found that the biking option includes FOURTEEN turns for a trip that is 2.7 miles, compared to the five turns recommended for the car.

Most of the bike trip is measured in feet rather than miles: 157 feet, then a turn, then pedal for 200 feet, then turn, ride for 335 feet, then turn. Oh! Ride for .1 miles, then turn, then .3 miles, then ride for 292 feet, then turn, etc.

Hm. Not very efficient. In fact all of this stop and go and turn and go and turn and go sort of defeats the purpose of riding a machine that depends on momentum for much of its magic.

I suppose the next step is to continue pressing our communities and leaders to make the fastest, largest, and most direct streets desirable and safe for cyclists because we are growing in numbers. We are growing rapidly, and are the transportation mode of the future.

Next step: widespread bicycle boulevards!

Stay tuned, next I’ll tell you about the public hearing I attended yesterday at the Pittsburgh City Council on the proposed new bike parking ordinance which I’ve written about here for Next American City and here.

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