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Google bike maps go live in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / November 29, 2010

Google Bike Map Directions TorontoGoogle bike maps for Toronto launched in beta sometime earlier this afternoon, and I've been toying around with the route planner for the last half hour or so in an effort to evaluate its effectiveness. Unfortunately, based on this short little test, I can only give this initial version mixed reviews.

From the standpoint of route suggestions, it seems most things are in order -- not only did I agree with almost all of Google's recommendations, I was surprised by the sophistication of some of the alternatives to riding along busy streets it came up with. But despite the quality of the cyclist-safe alternatives, there is at least one glaring problem that will need to be resolved.

Google Bike Map TorontoFirst the positives. Take the routes that it suggests for a trip from Mt. Pleasant and St. Clair down to the foot of Jarvis. Of the three options the planner delivers, the first two avoid the stretch of Mt. Pleasant between St. Clair and Bloor (where vehicular traffic often gets up to 65-70 kph) by taking the cyclist through a section of Rosedale before plopping him on Sherbourne heading southbound. The diversion is estimated to cost about 5 minutes of extra riding time versus heading straight down the hill at Mt. Pleasant (which is the third option), but there's no doubt that it's far safer.

In a perfect world, I'd like to see this safety-oriented route get the cyclist onto Jarvis a little earlier based on the horrible condition of the bike lanes on Sherbourne, but the Rosedale diversion is exemplary because it's precisely the type of route that most cyclists don't already know.

On the negative side as far as route planning goes, I wasn't so jazzed about Google's recommendation of a trip up Keele for a commute from the Christie Pits area to York University (taking Caledonia between Davenport and Lawrence would be safer), but it's possible that the hilliness of my preferred alternative makes it undesirable. So, I can't totally complain about that.

Google Bike Map TorontoThe one major problem with these maps, however, has to do with the text directions that accompany the maps. Google doesn't seem to know the names of our off-street bike paths. Take a look at the directions above to get an idea of what I'm talking about. The trail that the Google is suggesting is the Lower Don Recreational Trail, but in the absence of identification, the directions are rather confusing. I encountered the same thing when testing a trip that would use the West Toronto Railpath. The route plotted on the map took me to the trail, but the text directions made no mention of its name. Of note is the fact that path and trail identification is not a problem encountered by Ride the City, another cycling trip planner in Toronto.

Google bike map TorontoBut, hey, the Google ride planner is very clearly in beta, and some problems like this are to be expected. Nevertheless, I wouldn't suggest that people looking for paths and trails use it as a resource until this is worked out.

To use the bike directions feature, simply select the "get directions" option at the Google maps homepage, type in your route, and hit the little cyclist (who should be the option furthest to the right). And please let me know if you see any other significant problems or issues in the comment thread.



Michael S / November 29, 2010 at 08:01 pm
It's a bit sensitive to initial conditions.

When I look for my regular route from home near U of T to Scarborough it suggests a route east through downtown then up the Gatineau Corridor. But when I drag the starting point one very short block north it suggests an amusing route north through Mount Pleasant Cemetery and the Don Valley Parks, which takes 13 minutes longer.

Perhaps a dragon lives in that block or something, I haven't noticed.
Eric / November 29, 2010 at 08:05 pm
Very cool feature added to the already awesome Google Maps. I'll still be using Ride the City, but it's nice to see this feature being implemented by google. Here's hoping they throw it onto their smartphone apps soon!
Sunny / November 29, 2010 at 09:16 pm
I just tried it out and asked it to give me directions from Midtown to Front Street, and it told me to use PATH for part of its route. Somehow, I don't think the PATH is very bike-friendly, at all!
Aric / November 29, 2010 at 09:45 pm
I don't have bike directions in my google :(.
darko replying to a comment from Aric / November 29, 2010 at 10:17 pm
Try .com. .ca doesn't seem to have it yet.
serious replying to a comment from Michael S / November 30, 2010 at 02:35 am
let me know if there is any further evidence of said dragon, quite interested really.
Robert Ruggiero / November 30, 2010 at 03:25 am
Ditto @Sunny.

My route suggests taking the PATH for almost 2kms. Definitely has some major kinks in it.
Jo / November 30, 2010 at 12:14 pm

I'm lookign forward to how this will hybridize with TTC maps (get some use of those empty bus-bike racks), and how feedback mechanisms will help evolve routes, and perhaps even awareness for events/sites/locales !


Just Thinking
Eli / November 30, 2010 at 06:05 pm
I checked Google once last night, and once this evening, and neither time did the bike route option appear.
Tony / November 30, 2010 at 11:58 pm
It's great that Google Maps now has bike routes in Canada, but how come no TTC routes?

They have TTC routes for many other cities, and I've heard that the TTC is refusing to cooperate with Google on this, but why?
Enriqueta / June 7, 2013 at 07:24 pm
Thanks for finally talking about >Google bike maps go
live in Toronto
Other Cities: Montreal