Google Maps for Bikes

I don’t know if anyone saw this but Google Maps has added cycling directions to their options for getting places. It’s pretty sweet. I mapped a couple routes from the Hub and this is what I got…

The Hub –> Ann Arbor
This route seems pretty self explanatory. Taking long surface streets rather than highways on which bikes aren’t allowed (in Michigan at least). Can anyone verify that this is, in fact, the best way to bike to Ann Arbor?

The Hub –> Belle Isle
This route to Belle Isle was interesting. The shortest distance by car it tells you is 6.3 miles, and advises you to use the freeway. Conversely, the shortest bike route (previous link) is 6 miles long, and although it takes you through a somewhat puzzling maze of left and right turns before putting you on Jefferson, it successfully avoids a number of high-traffic streets that may seem shorter but won’t make for the best ride. I don’t think the route is terribly intuitive, but the algorithm says it’s the fastest, so make of that what you will.

Despite the feature’s tendency to route you away from major, automotive arteries (a move I’m generally in favor of but am kind of on the fence about), some of the directions seem needlessly fussy. Like this one, which is a route I ride every weekend and make no more than three turns in total, according to Google’s first choice, I should be making nine whole turns to go the same distance.

The Hub –> Eastern Market

But after all that turning, these directions seem suspiciously linear…

The Hub –> Royal Oak Trader Joe’s

I guess the lesson is that sometimes, the most obvious route really is the fastest and I should stop trying to look for meaning in random internet queries.

Also worth noting, what do you suppose they estimate to be the average speed of a cyclist? How accurate are these times anyway? Does anyone want to race the maps with us sometime?

Google is pretty up front that the technology is still in Beta form, but it’s a rad addition that I look forward to using. Since I’m still pretty new in town and not that familiar with Detroit, it would be cool if some folks could verify these routes and check to see if they seem solid or have any major flaws that might be interesting to look out for.

Have fun, and be sure to report back any findings.


3 thoughts on “Google Maps for Bikes

  1. Ann Arbor route:
    Instead of taking Michigan/Ford road out I would suggest taking Warren, but Cherry Hill is a definitely good route. Also, If you wanna go out of your way a little more and do the scenic thing – take Warren to Ann Arbor Trail which curves north but then swings back down. Definitely not the shortest but it is a ride I’ve done. Good times.

    Belle Isle:
    Through downtown, I would rather go down to Grand River and then shoot south on Griswold. Then take a left on Larned. I would then take Larned to Mt. Elliot before jumping on Jefferson, but that is me. The alternative is taking Mack all the way to Grand. I’ve done this as well.

    Eastern Market:
    I’ve totally taken this route but I take Watson instead of Edmund and Peterboro instead of Charlotte. Mack isn’t that scary though.

    To the trash container:
    I don’t trust Woodward north of 8 mile to ride on. I would take Woodward up to 8 mile and then get on Hilton and then take Lincoln or 4th street over.

  2. hey,
    i was pleasantly surprised to find this when i mapped something. i punched in some trips i make within the city and of course there are a thousand ways to get anywhere in detroit, but the google map results were pretty good, similar to what i have already been traveling. nothing ridiculous came up for me so far.

    nyc has a nice program at which allows you to choose “Direct Route”, “Safe Route”, or “Safer Route”. i found it to be pretty helpful when trying to determine whether i wanted a quick insane commute or a longer milder one. of course, they factor in bike lanes too, which is n/a in this place.

    “puzzling maze of left and right turns”…yeah i think that’s a common feature of the bike route mapping programs i’ve seen. it’s not too big of a deal to make a thousand turns if you know the streets you’re on, and if traffic isn’t too wild, but if you’re in a neighborhood you don’t frequent and you have to look for street names constantly, or if you have to stop and wait for a hole in traffic to turn at each block, it can feel kind of pointless. then again, if you make the same trip every day for years you might want to switch it up a bit.

    i guess none of these systems beats the intimate intuition of feeling out the streets when you know them. but we have to go new places sometimes.

  3. Hmm yeah some of this is ok, at least they have a link to make suggestions.
    I just mapped my house to the hub and it suggests that I take the lodge service drive for a good portion of it. Who wants to bike on a service drive?! I guess that’s not always my top choice.
    Either way, it’s rad that it finally has this option!

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