EcoMeme: Cyclists Get Google Maps Love

woman on bike

Google Maps released a feature that gives turn-by-turn biking directions in 150 American cities this week, as it has previously for driving, public transportation and walking routes.

According to the company’s own blog, bike directions were the most requested feature by Google Maps users. Pro-bicyclist, and environmentalist groups like Austin’s had created petitions and lobbied Google to develop this tool as early as 2007. Their petition scored more than 51,000 signatures.

Others, like RideTheCity in New York, worked to develop their own bike route mapping tools online, with specific, insider knowledge of each metro area.

The new Google feature delivers information about bike trails that have no motor vehicles, and the streets and routes recommended for cyclists, avoiding motor vehicle traffic, and steep hills. So far, the green and bike loving blogosphere has reacted with mixed reviews, deeming Google Maps for Bikes a good start, but not quite there yet.

We hope that Google’s Bike Maps feature will encourage car commuters to go green and get fit. Biking where you might have driven before can prevent tons of carbon emissions each year, while burning hundreds of calories an hour.

Basic Reading:

“Motor vehicle emissions represent 31 percent of total carbon dioxide, 81 percent of carbon monoxide, and 49 percent of nitrogen oxides released in the U.S. A short, four-mile round trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe.” – Top environmental reasons to bike not drive from

“Google worked with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which advocates for the creation of biking and walking paths throughout the United States, to gather trail-map data. “˜The demand for trail maps and information has never been higher, especially as more people recognize biking as a viable, inexpensive and healthy alternative to driving,’ Rails-to-Trails President Keith Laughlin said in a statement.” – A news item ‘Google Maps Your Way to the Bicycle Path,’ via Silicon Valley Mercury News

“Avid bicyclists, who have long demanded they be treated as equals on the city’s streets, suddenly felt the pain of every driver who has taken a wrong turn after getting glitchy Google Maps directions… Some [cyclists] said the site wanted them to backpedal away from official city bike routes, often adding 10 or 15 minutes to their usual commutes. One regular rider said Google was trying to kill her – directing her to get on Interstate 5.” – A mixed review for Google’s Bike Maps feature by Portland, Oregon cyclists via Oregon Live

“My guess: Google’s bike maps feature will be mostly neglected until they are vastly improved. One suggestion, Google needs a better system to accept crowdsourced input. If cyclists get behind the project, however, Google’s bike maps could become really helpful.” A tough review of Google Bike Maps, by David Coursey for PC World

Further Resources:

“I burn about 66 carolies per mile on my bicycle. My car emits .932 pounds of CO2 per mile”¦” – A by-the-numbers post at CarFree blog

Wired’s Autopia blog seeks readers’ opinion for a “crowdsourced” review of Google Maps new bike feature

A post by Jason St. Amand about the most affordable and best bikes via WalletPop

The website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which tracks safety issues around driving, mostly, with some cycling and walking studies too

This is the latest installment of EcoMeme, a column featuring eco news, tech and business highlights by columnist Lora Kolodny.

Image: Pixel Addict