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Google Maps Just Got So Much Better for Cyclists

By Katherine LaGrave

Jul 20, 2020

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New York is one of the cities with bike-share information on Google.

Photo by J.D. Rogers/Shutterstock

New York is one of the cities with bike-share information on Google.

In addition to adding hundreds of thousands of new bike lanes, the update incorporates bike-sharing information from cities around the world.

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Google just unveiled a shinier new version of its Maps for the two-wheeled among us. The reason for the update, according to Google, was because of, er, Google data: Since February, there has been a 69 percent jump in searches for cycling directions in Maps. 

It’s no surprise: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, biking has seen a surge in popularity from those anxious about returning to an indoor gym or hopping back on public transportation. According to a report in the New York Times, in March, “nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled compared with the same period last year.” 

As part of the refresh, Google has added hundreds of thousands of new bike lanes to Maps around the world. It has also labeled how “bike friendly” a street is by calculating lanes and elevation, and incorporated bike-share information, allowing users to check availability and docking stations, all without leaving the app. For 10 cities, Maps even includes links to bike-share apps so users can book the bikes and be on their way. (None of the 10 cities rank in the world’s best cities for biking, so this added intel is definitely an improvement.) The featured cities with bike-share programs are:

  • Chicago, Illinois (Divvy/Lyft)
  • New York City (Citi Bike/Lyft)
  • Washington, D.C. (Capital Bikeshare/Lyft)
  • San Francisco Bay Area, California (Bay Wheels/Lyft)
  • London, England (Santander Cycles)
  • Mexico City, Mexico (Ecobici)
  • Montreal, Canada (BIXI/Lyft)
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Bike Itau)
  • São Paulo, Brazil (Bike Itau)
  • Taipei and New Taipei City, Taiwan (Youbike)

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To see the updated information, users simply have to open Google Maps and enter a destination and origin. Click the bicycle icon, and you’ll see a number of different routes organized by duration and elevation difficulty. Once you select a route, step-by-step navigation instructions will appear, as well as photos that show you where to turn. If you're using a bike-share program, Maps will let you know how many docking stations are available at your destination. 

The improvements were a long time coming: Google first added biking directions in Maps a little more than a decade ago, in March 2010, by highlighting designated bike lanes or trails and traffic signals to calculate the best routes for riding. 

Looking to hop on the bike-riding trend? REI now delivers bikes directly to your door, and it has deals on everything from bikes designed for tough potholes to folding bikes designed for small apartments. It even has bikes that will do most of the pedaling for you. 

Buy Now: Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1 Bike, $549, rei.com
Buy Now: Tern Link C8 Folding Bike, $750, rei.com
Buy Now: Electra Townie Go! 7D Electric Bike, $1,500, rei.com
Buy Now: Yuba Mundo Lux Cargo Bike, $1,800, rei.com

If you'd rather BYOB—build your own bike—Competitive Cyclist offers that option, too. 

Buy Now: Build Your Dream Bike, from $1,099, competitivecyclist.com

Happy biking. 

Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.

>> Next: A New 1,374-Mile Bike Route Between Yellowstone and Minneapolis Is All About Natural Wonders and National Landmarks

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