Car Less Ohio

Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State

Google needs our expertise on biking around town

Last year, the cycling community was abuzz with the news that Google had implemented the Biking Directions feature in Google Maps. Rather than try to re-hash the issue, I’ll just let you read this guest editorial written by Rob Allen for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News magazine:

I am proud to know the best way to get around my neighborhood, by bike. Not all these routes are obvious. If I were visiting your town, I’m sure you would lead me on the safest, most pleasant bike route, wherever we might go.

Fellow bike riders: We have valuable expertise. Google Maps has a new feature, providing directions by bike. This will be a very useful tool one day, after it has received our input. Google doesn’t have enough digital data to provide the best routes to use by bike. We need to use our extensive local bike knowledge to update their limited information.

When Google introduced Google bike earlier this year I tested it on three slightly obscure routes and it failed three times. A few weeks later I returned and found that one of the routes had been corrected!

Google bike is in “beta,” which means we can update it. We must!

Go to maps.google.com. Click on “get directions.” You will see a four-part menu bar providing auto, bus, pedestrian and bike icons. When you click on the bike icon and put in your departure and destination locations Google will provide a recommended bike route. If you think Google has this wrong, then you can correct it. You will see the notification that “bicycle directions are in beta.” At the bottom of that paragraph, click on the blue “here.” This will allow you to correct the bike route directions by following Google’s instructions. Here’s how it worked for me:

I updated two routes in my neighborhood. Very quickly I got two Google no-reply e-mails, acknowledging my input. A little later I got two more e-mails informing me that my updates were correct, confirming that Google would correct the Google maps site. These e-mails also promised a third pair of e-mails when the site was updated. About three months later I got the final e-mails confirming that the site had been updated. I checked to be sure and it was.

This is an easy process, though it take some time for Google to do the update.

Check it out. Correct it where needed.

Google bike will be a fantastic tool when it contains our collective industry knowledge.

Rob Allen is the territory manager for Northern California and Northern Nevada for Raleigh America. He can be reached at r.allen@raleighamerica.com.

In summary, Google Maps Biking Directions may not be perfect yet, but it will only get better with the help of the experts, i.e. US! I’ve submitted a couple of corrections myself, and the process was pretty much the same as Rob described.

If you’re curious about the details, in one case I had mapped a route through some of the western suburbs of Cleveland, and Google Maps had route some portion of it on bridle trails in the Cleveland Metroparks. While the Cleveland Metroparks does have an extensive network of multi-purpose trails for biking and walking, bicycle are not permitted on the bridle trails. I told Google about this, and they updated their data to avoid this problem.

In another case, I was looking for the best way to get from Newton Falls to Ravenna, Ohio, and Google Maps directed me through the Ravenna Army Ammunition Plant, which is closed to the public. I got the e-mail notice that Google will be investigating this issue; however, if I pull up the same route again, it still has the incorrect route, so the data has not been corrected yet.

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