Google Engineer Scott Shawcroft Explains the New Bike Map

The wait for bicycle directions on Google Maps has finally ended as the company announced a beta version of its new bicycle directions feature at the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. this morning. The new mapping software includes an elegant overlay of bicycle routes based on priority bicycle streets and paths in the 150 cities where Google is debuting the service.

Streetsblog San Francisco Editor Bryan Goebel sat down with Google Engineer Scott Shawcroft today to discuss the new software and Google’s plans for enhancing it. 

google_rep.jpgScott Shawcroft demonstrates Bike Map for a bike summit attendee. Photo: Bryan Goebel.

Shawcroft said the software gives bicycle directions that take into account the grade of a road, the priority of a road (based on traffic volumes), as well as bike lanes, recommended routes, and bike trails. Shawcroft also said the map interface de-emphasizes driving routes and streets that are not friendly for cyclists, and shows various bicycle class designations in shades of green, from fully separated bike paths to streets with sharrows.

Data gathering was a difficult part of the process, according Shawcroft, and he encouraged users to try the mapping service and give Google feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Users can report problems directly to Google in a box on the left-hand navigation bar in the bicycle directions section of Google Maps.

You can listen to Bryan’s full interview with Shawcroft here:

[audio: http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2010/03/Google-Interview-2.mp3]

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