Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bicycling on the Google Trails

I was looking at a bicycling route in eastern Pennsylvania when I discovered that Google Maps now has a bicycling option. It is available under the "Traffic" tab - click on "more" to access it.

They don't provide you with a legend but it looks like the dark green are off-road paths and trails, lighter green are bike lanes and dashed lines are proposed routes. The maps tend to be optomistic-some of these routes are impassible mudholes in the spring as I recently discovered. Other paths look like this one.

The picture above is of the circled path below. I thought it looked like an odd place for an off road path so I looked it up on street view and unless the DRPA has changed its policy then this can't legally be considered a bicycle route. Note also the continuing presence of Quebec Route 366 throughout our country.

Bicycling directions are also available by clicking the bicycle icon (the far right choice at the top.) Of course, this is also subject to google errors such as telling you to take Quebec Route 366 across western Pennsylvania.

Upon further review the driving route still appears as the first choice. You have to scroll down on these directions to see that this is not actually the suggested bicycle route. You can't ride your bike on Quebec Route 366 through Greensburg because it is a limited access highway. The bicycle route finds a way to sensibly avoid central Greensburg. However, they still direct you onto some sections of the highway that don't look very legal or safe.
Where there are bicycling trails the directions they will find them and give you a pretty good route.

It's good to see the Google giving bicycling some attention and the tools are useful, if not perfect. They also make me want to try some new routes. So get on your bike and enjoy the summer!

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