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