Mixed Verdict on Google Bicycling Directions
Posted 3/12/2010 3:02 PM PST
Cyclists across the country are reacting with equal parts support and criticism of Google's new bicycling directions. The complaints are consistent: glitchy routes, sissy routes, and unnecessarily long routes. But riders' commitment to helping Google fix these problems seems strong.
One Madison, WI, daily reported that "early reviews among local cyclists appear clustered in the neighborhood of, 'Good start, but needs improvement.'"
The hard-core Portland bike community was not as subdued. One rider purported that "Google was trying to kill her," referring to a route that would have sent her onto Interstate 5.
A Kansas cyclist with a similar issue exhibited more Mid-West stoicism, "In a quick test, it worked pretty well, though it routed me onto a high-traffic arterial at one point, which wouldn't be my first choice."
Not surprisingly, San Francisco cyclists are concerned with the hills. A comment on S.F. Streetsblog states, "(Google) seems to underestimate the slope of some of the hills on its routes. Looking at my work commute it suggests I go up a 5-10% slope rather than travel one more block on market and take a flat street." While other cyclists have complained that the suggested routes are too flat, ragging on Google's lowest common denominator approach to its audience.
A Twitter search for "Google Bicycling" will give you a further sense of cyclists' mixed emotions.
Google acknowledges that there is room for improvement and allows cyclists to report errors and provide feedback. More challenging, however, is coming up with a one-size-fits-all algorithm that appeals to timid commuters, weekend warriors, and ornery bike messengers alike.
Overall, the message boards, Tweets, blogs, and bike forums express an enthusiasm for the tool's potential and a willingness to participate in its betterment. And the best way for all of us to improve Google's bicycling directions is to get off the Internet and onto two wheels, try it, and send Google some feedback.
Just be careful not to end up on an interstate on-ramp!