Monday, March 15, 2010

Google Maps Directions For Your Bike

The debate over the usefulness and accuracy of services like Google Maps and MapQuest is not quite as serious as the one surrounding GPS in the backcountry. I myself may be considered a Luddite, seeing as I refuse to purchase a GPS unit and purposefully rely on my map and compass while in the wilderness. Regardless of your opinion on these technologies and products, you have to admit that some people out there trust these things far to much. A beautiful example of this was demonstrated in the following hilarious clip from NBC's The Office.

While it may seem like a stretch that someone would actually follow spoken directions from a GPS unit verbatim, real life cases are on the rise where people have done just that. The newest service aimed at simplifying our lives, provided by Google, is an addition to their very popular Maps product. You can now get directions specifically for biking from one destination to another. The map will show bike lanes and bike trails specifically, as well roads recommended for cyclists due to their lack of steep hills and traffic. While this product is still in beta testing, cyclists will surely start using it and seemingly as anything Google creates, it will probably become part of our daily lives.

Personally I "Googled" the bike directions from the Institute's office to my house, and it suggested pretty much the exact route I bike to and from work. I was impressed that it picked up even the slightest detail of the side alley I ride through the cut a few corners. The only difference I noticed, was that it took me on the proper one-way road in which I would be biking with the flow of traffic - while when I bike I take an extra short-cut the wrong way down a street. I guess I can't be too critical of the fact that it had me abide by traffic laws. While I don't see this service being extremely helpful in a town I already bike all over and have my routes figured out, it would be nice while heading to a new area. I'm interested to see if any bike related accidents come about due to someone biking while holding a print out copy of their Google Maps directions in their hands, and just hope they are wearing a helmet when it happens.

-Andrew Yasso

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