Last month, Google–the most popular internet search company in the world-started offering cycling-specific information, as they finally saw it as good for business (and shares definitely went up as a result). Google said that the new feature has been the a popular request over the last couple years. As it turns out, an organization called Google Maps Bike There collected more than 50,000 signatures to endorse the addition of bicycle routes. You no longer need to go on line and search different resources to find maps of different areas, such as those provided by various bike coalitions that track bicycle infrastructure.
This new service offers a step by step, or should I say pedal by pedal, guide for cyclists and also calculates mileage. The biking directions provide time estimates for routes, the number of hills, fatigue over time, and other variables. The system is, however, geared toward the less advanced cyclist, as it provides routes with the fewest hills (a feature that might annoy the advanced cyclist). Another feature, Local Search, guides cyclists to locations where they can take a break or find bike shops along their route. There are lines on the map that help bicycle riders choose different routes: Dark green Lines highlight bike trails, light green line highlight streets with bike lanes, and dotted green lines highlight other streets recommended for cyclists. There is also a blue line on which you can click to move the route along other designated bike trails, lanes and safe streets. Displayed to the left of the map are turn-by-turn written directions.
With this new service, Google can actually help propel forward socioeconomic/environmental/ health causes, which is part of the company’s basic founding principal: provide the public with free and easily accessible information. This tool may actually motivate people to use existing bike friendly routes and promote bicycling as means for everyday transportation. And, as a natural consequence, government may begin to see the need to paint additional bike lanes– which can provide opportunities to make communities safer, the air cleaner and people healthier. Put another way, if the public is aware of a safe and pleasant way to get around, that is one more reason to bike, leave the car in the garage and enjoy the fresh air (side note: cycling in the fresh air has got to leave you feeling more energized, buoyant and restored than cycling in the gym). It is also a chance to meet other bikers, make friends and become more social. Here at the Brod Law Firm, we think that this feature will lead to a reduction of bike accidents and promote cycling access, education and safety here in San Francisco and beyond. This tool could, maybe more than any other internet tool out there, lead to a real change in our communities, change that literally starts at our fingertips(especially if it becomes an iPhone app)!