Google has enhanced its online maps by adding cycling routes to its driving, public transportation and walking directions. Peter Smith, on the Google Bike Maps team said, "We wanted to include as much bike trail data as possible, provide efficient routes, allow riders to customize their trip, make use of bike lanes, calculate rider-friendly routes that avoid big hills and customize the look of the map for cycling to encourage folks to hop on their bikes." Google also hopes that its cycling routing will influence city planning, pushing it to be more bike friendly.
In many locations, Google cycling maps offer or will offer multiple route options as well as drag-and-drop routing ability. But for now, that feature is dependent on where you live. I plugged in a ride I frequently do, from my home in Richmond, Vermont to downtown Burlington, Vermont. It's about 15 miles and it usually takes me an hour. The route Google chose for me between the two points was not exactly the route I would normally take, probably because it was trying to help me avoid big hills. Google's route was certainly better than what I would have come up with had I based my bike ride on roads I would normally drive. The site didn't offer me other options, despite the fact that there are other roads to choose from. The directions did have photos of many of the turns on my recommended route. When I clicked from cycling to walking, I noticed the directions were the same as the cycling directions.
Rural Vermont probably isn't the best place to put the beta version of Google cycling maps to the test. There aren't a load of roads, and some of the roads we do have are dirt. So there are limited options for getting from here to there, wherever here and there are if you're trying to avoid hills, dirt and traffic. For now, Google's cycling maps likely work better in cities. Can anyone send us a report?