Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bike directions on Google maps

With the advent of the iPhone, it is possible to wake up only to find oneself adrift in the tubes before getting out of bed. And so I woke up this morning to find one email from the bike league, and a plethora of twooshes, all excitedly and twitchily informing me that Google Maps has added a bicycling option to its directions-finder.

I shuffled from the bed to the office, fired up the laptop, and had a gander for myself. I asked for The Google to plot my commute and to optimize the route for a bicyclist, and it proceeded to do its damnedest.

Critique of its optimized route

+1 for existing. For showing up. For bike directions even being an option. Thank you The Google for offering this service so that the people doing their living might realize the possibility of doing it by bike, alleviating wear on the roads and instead putting a healthy amount of it on their bodies.

+1 right off the bat for designated bike routes and trails being visible (highlighted in green) and for using them where possible.

-1 for making heavy use of traffic-heavy Downing Street! Granted, there are a number of blocks on which I'll ride Downing, but it's primarily not very ... Whoa, hold on a tic. What's this? The route here suddenly jumps between northbound Downing and southbound Corona. As though indicating there's a bike path in the median?

No, as though directing bike traffic through the alley! What kind of shenanigans is this? This shall not go uninvestigated!

+1 for inciting investigatory adventurism, with the possibility of later docking points for directing bike traffic off of roads and into alleys.

-1 for utilizing a bike route two blocks west of beautiful Cheesman Park instead of routing through the park. Optimizing directions for a cyclist should account for scenery-beauty. When will the Google learn to appreciate beauty?

-1 for routing the ride down 1st Ave, in front of the Denver Country Club, which is a dangerous sidewalk in winter because they don't shovel their walk. On the other hand, this option is fine in warmer weather, and whether or not to take it is a personal preference, but this is my list, so I'm docking a point.

+1 for making good use of the Cherry Creek Trail. The Google has accounted well for scenery-beauty!

Tallying up the score, it appears we are left with a total of one Arbitrary Unit of Judginess.

I am happy to have the "bike it" option on Google maps. It pleases me. Using it will be quicker than looking at driving directions and then overlaying my own map of bike routes. But it's definitely in Beta, and I'll be handling its suggestions in the meanwhile as though they are likely to be buggy. Because they are.

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