It was the summer of '08 when bike bloggers and cycling advocates began a petition requesting Google to include a "Bike There" routing option in their maps.
Today the Google Gods ended our long wait and announced the release of the beta version of a bike there option in . The Google blog has all the info about the release.
Google say's, "More than 12,000 miles of trails are included in biking directions and outlined on the map, covering over 150 cities across the states. And more are being added."
I tested a couple of the heavily used routes just to see what the suggested routes would be. The first one I did was Downtown to Five Points in Riverside. I used Hemming Plaza as the starting point and Park & Post Streets as the destination.
Looking at the map you may be wondering, why not Riverside Avenue since it has bike lanes? The map did what Google said it would do. That is find the quietest roads with the least amount of hills. And Park St. is far less trafficked than Riverside Ave. Also the Park St. railroad viaduct is a far easier climb that the one on Riverside Ave.
The unfortunate thing is that Google Maps as of yet does not recognize the Riverwalk as a bike trail. Which is the most traveled route between Riverside and Downtown.
As this is a beta release, Google asks that you encounter a problem with bike there directions to use the "Report a problem" link at the bottom of the left hand column as pictured below.
Notice the dark green lines denoting a bike route on both Acosta and Main St. Bridges. It's really sad that a city bisected by a river keeps cyclist and pedestrians limited to to 2 of the 7 bridges (soon to be 8) that span the river.
The second route I tried was Atlantic Blvd. & Kernan Blvd. to University of North Florida.
This route didn't do near as well as it did with the downtown route. It sends you down Beach Blvd. which is a very heavily traveled 6 six lane road. It also doesn't show the Kernan Blvd. Bikeway that runs along that length of Kernan from Atlantic Blvd. and ends just short of the entrance to UNF. If you use this route please make sure to report as problem using the link provided by Google as mentioned above.
Google does however include in its database both the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rails to Trail and Black Creek Trail in Orange Park.
Overall, I think the beta of the bike directions is outstanding and will only get better more accurate with time and input of local riders.
Try some of your own and let me know how well it works for you.