Google's new bicycle service should offer significant improvements over the regular Google maps for cyclists. While the original service helps find the shortest or fastest route for cars, Google's new offering will help find the best routes for bicycles - those with bike lanes or trails, less traffic, and smaller hills. The service will also help cyclists find their way with turn-by-turn directions; estimate time, based on average cycling speeds and even factoring in fatigue; and even find good spots for breaks at local bike shops and other pit stops.
Other bicycle map services have been around longer, but Google is by far the largest. Bicycle advocates expect Google's offering to help make bikes go mainstream even faster, perhaps even increasing the number of people who bike to work. Starting out in 149 cities nationwide, Google may expand to other places and to handheld devices like mobile phones.
' "Google is already a tool that people use every day,'' said Margo O'Hara, a spokeswoman for the Active Transportation Alliance. "To expand the choices where people are already looking for directions will make more people think about getting around by bike and show them how quickly they can do it in a bike-friendly city.'' '