Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Point A to Point B with Google Bike Maps, Plus A Few Kinks

Google Bike Maps Spin Out Over Grove Street

The buzz of the day is Google's new bicycling map, and it's a fine feature eagerly awaited by bicyclists across the country. If you've ever used Google Maps and directions for driving somewhere, you know the route deserves a closer look. Same with the bike directions. For instance, I tried Google Bike Maps for a relatively straight shot from NOPA's Golden Gate and Central to 6th and Market, site of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition office.

The map directs cyclists east on Golden Gate to Broderick, a right turn there to McAllister, a left on McAllister (a bike route) . All good so far. But then the system spasms over Grove Street with repeated "left toward Grove, right toward Grove, left toward Grove" a total of EIGHT TIMES. The "Left, right, left, right, left, right" leaves you feeling like Faye Dunaway in Chinatown.

Once bikers escape Google's Grove Street fixation, they're directed to turn on Hyde toward Market and then continue down Market to 6th. It's a decent enough route, but most cyclists would do it differently. One popular option is a right turn on Polk from McAllister, then a left on Grove (but just once!) and connect with Hyde for a jag to cross Market. That change avoids the high-volume traffic and congestion of Hyde from McAllister to Market.

Google has a few kinks to work out, but the bike map is a fine feature that will only get better, especially with several similar services coming online any day. And San Francisco's street grids, hills, and start-and-stop bike lanes present a more difficult territory than, say, Portland's more predictable layout with extensive bike facilities. Thanks to the 50,000 petitioners who urged the company to add the bike map.

Give the Google Bike Map a try and be sure to report any glitches. Use the gold box in the toolbox on the directions section to provide feedback.

1 comment:

  1. In fact, the best route from Golden Gate at Central is to take "The Golden Gate Slide" all the way to Market. If you're comfortable with taking a lane, and can keep a high speed, it's a straight shot and the lights are timed great until Van Ness. Then the lights pick back up again through the Tenderloin.