Google Maps Update just Added more Biker-friendly Features

Google Maps update

Google Maps is a great app for directions, but biker-friendly features have never been its strong suit. Well, until now. Yesterday, Google announced a new update for Maps, which will add more features for bikers. The update will be available in a few weeks and the features will apply for ten selected cities: Chicago; New York City; the San Francisco Bay Area; Washington, DC; London; Mexico City; Montreal; Rio De Janeiro; São Paulo; and Taipei and New Taipei City. In the following months, more cities will be added. 

The first improvement comes in the form of new bike routes, which will help users get around faster. But the second, and most exciting one, is showing directions to docked bikesharing stations. Using Google Maps, users will get walking directions to the nearest docking stations, cycling directions to get from one dock to another, and then walking directions again to get from the dock to the destination. Google Maps will also display information on dock availability and, for some cities, it will also display links to open ridesharing apps and unlock bikes. Some of the bike sharing schemes supported by the app are Citi Bike in New York and Santander Cycles in London. In total, Google will be collaborating with ten bikesharing partners, all of which have taken extensive safety precautions, such as disinfecting the bikes regularly. 

The update was announced via a Google blog post, which also mentioned that they’ll be using a combination of machine learning, Government data, and real-world imagery to give the best recommendations. For example, Google Maps will not only be displaying the fastest route, but also the most convenient one for cyclists, so if it can avoid roads with poor surface conditions, it will. It will also inform users if their chosen route will be smooth or rocky. 

In the blog posts, Google also explained that the update comes after requests for cycling directions have increased by 69%. The COVID-19 pandemic has a lot to do with this increased demand, since more people have changed their persona transportation habits and chose to use their bikes instead of public transport, which carries a higher risk. Cities themselves have encouraged people to walk and cycle more, and we can definitely expect this trend to continue as cities are getting hit by the second Coronavirus wave. 

Google Maps introduced biking directions in 2010 and the features is now being used by people in 30 countries. However, cyclists have always felt that their needs are being properly represented and that the app needs for features to accommodate their lifestyle. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this need accentuated even more, as people started to keep alternative routes to work and rely on local bikesharing services. As Google also noted, people are using their bikes more, they’re fixing old ones and buying new ones, which has led to an increase in bikesharing services.