|Don't be sheepish—try the new Google Maps cycling directions feature.|
In response to years of requests for a bicycling option and over fifty thousand signatures on the “Bike There” petition, Google Maps has unveiled a new feature that helps cyclists find bike-friendly roads and while avoiding less-friendly streets.
In this Web 2.0 era, platforms like NextBus.com and 511.com have made it easier to make use of public transit: by using GPS and mobile applications to map routes, commuters are able to schedule trips with more ease. The new bicycle-route option on Google Maps will hopefully do the same by helping cyclists plan safer routes with fewer steep inclines.
The service is still in beta; in a recent interview on Streetsblog, Google Engineer Scott Shawcroft encouraged users to try the service and submit feedback to help Google improve the map system. As always, meanwhile, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition sells San Francisco cycling maps, with main bicycle routes and elevation changes marked for those cyclists who prefer a low-tech equivalent. Either way, knowing what to expect on a route will definitely make it easier for riders to feel confident about opting to cycle instead of drive.