Google bike directions

I’ve been using Google Maps to choose bike routes for years. The route I took today from my office to downtown Naperville, for example, uses a set of residential streets and sidewalks along busy roads that I first found by studying its aerial photos. Now Google has a specific option for getting bicycling directions.

I tried it out by entering my home and work addresses. Most of the route it came up with matches my regular path, but one spot was horribly wrong.

First, Google wants me to ride along Ogden Avenue, which is suicidal, although this instruction may not be as bad as it seems, since no one would be stupid enough to ride in a busy street when a there’s an asphalt path (that’s the bright green line) that’s not only close by, but actually cuts a corner.

No, the real problem is crossing Ogden at Meadow Lakes Boulevard. During rush hour, cars can barely cross that intersection. There’s no traffic light, and Ogden—the main east-west street in the area—has two through lanes and one turn lane in each direction. And there’s no median, so there’s no way for you to cross halfway when one direction is clear and wait in the middle until the other direction clears. Google’s Street View for the intersection shows cars in every lane, and I can guarantee you the Street View photos weren’t taken at rush hour. Just riding on the bike path parallel to Odgen is a pain at this intersection, because drivers on Meadow Lakes are always pulling forward to block the path.

Weirdly, there are traffic lights a block east and a block west of this intersection. Either would be better than trying to cross here.

Google recognizes that its biking directions may be wrong. Here’s the warning/disclaimer that comes with them:

I filled out the little web form that pops up when you click that link, and I have little doubt that Google’s bicycling directions will improve quickly. Still, I think it’s odd to use the term beta for this product. Losing your data is a risk beta testers are used to. Here, you stand to lose a bit more.

4 Responses to “Google bike directions”

  1. Lennie says:

    Euh, what’s wrong with just not using that road not to cross when you encounter it. If I wanted to use sarcasm, I would probably have said, if you arrive their with your bike and still choose to cross their, maybe it’s your own mistake. Blindly following directions is stupid. Think for yourself !

  2. Lennie says:

    Their is a not to many in that comment, sowwy. English is not my first language.

  3. Nylund says:

    I had a similar experience when I mapped my commute in my town. It suggested biking on a very busy road (with no bike lane) instead of using a dedicated paved bike path that parallels the busy street.

  4. Dr. Drang says:

    Calm down, Lennie. No one’s accusing Google of attempted murder and no one’s suggesting Google’s directions should be followed blindly. As I said in the post, “no one would be stupid enough to ride in a busy street when a there’s an asphalt path (that’s the bright green line) that’s not only close by, but actually cuts a corner.”

    As for crossing a busy street at the wrong intersection, the problem with this route is that the best crossing is a block to the west, an intersection you’d never even see if you follow Google’s directions.

    You might also want to reread my last paragraph. I’m sure Google will make improvements, and I’ve sent them the information to do so.