Map Spring Rides on Google

Google Maps announced today that it has added support for generating bicycle directions. See the video above for an intro. This is listed as a beta feature and is apparently only available in 150 or cities. Albany happens to be one, so I gave it a go by typing in a few common destinations.

The routes appear mostly workable though far from ideal. They thankfully avoid busy, highly trafficked roads and give some preference to flatter routes. What few biking infrastructure amenities Albany possesses don’t seem to be part of the Google database. My usual route from Albany to Troy utilizes the Hudson River hike and bike trail for most of the distance, while the Google generated route substituted a long stretch on a two-lane road with an average speed limit of 45 miles per hour–not my first choice.

It will be interesting to watch this service develop. I certainly plan on using it but will likely do so in conjunction with other route-finding services (where they exist).

Unearthed: Ride the City

Somehow this post from way back in June never made it to the Field Guide. I’m happy to find it and share it now.

ridethecity.com

Here’s a fun Google mash-up for cyclists in NYC: ridethecity.com. I wish this existed back when I rode in NYC. The route ridethecity.com proposes as “safest” looks better than the route I regularly took to work, albeit a few blocks longer. But I’ll generally choose to ride farther if it’s safer/more pleasant/more fun.

I love the indications for bike shops on the map and the distinction between roads, bike paths, greenways, etc. I also like the simple weather report in the upper right corner (though a windspeed indicator would be a welcome addition).

Let’s hope ridethecity shares their work with other cities. I’d love to see more of them.

DC to Get Bike Sharing Program

…Thanks Daddy Clear Channel!

The NYTimes is reporting a new bicycle sharing program for Washington, D.C. The kicker?…it’s supported by a deal with Clear Channel which provides exclusive access to bus shelter advertising. So if you’re biking in D.C. try not to get so distracted by the bus shelter ads that you put yourself in danger.

Riverride

Thanks to good weather and childcare (and a job away from my house, of course!) I finally got back to commuting by bike. Friday I rode the 10+ miles each way. It was a bit much for the first time back in the saddle, but a great ride overall. Most of the route is on the Hudson River hike and bike trail, squeezed between the Hudson River (imagine that) and I-787 (who put that highway there!?). As long as I rode with my face to the river and went fast enough for the wind in my ears to drown out the noise of the highway…it was blissful. Looking forward to riding it again.

Where is My Bicycle Coverage?

Yesterday morning the host of Marketplace Morning Report mentioned high oil prices then joked, “where is my bicycle pump?” Indeed. And where is Marketplace’s coverage of bicycle commuting/alternative transportation issues? I might even sit through that 5/4 earworm of a theme song to hear to it.

Portland Bicycling Spins Business Spin

More bicycling goodness from the New York Times. Apparently, creating a friendly bicycle culture is good for the bicycling business–just look at Portland. The punch line here goes something like “we went for sustainability and got a better economy, too.” No surprise there except that the business activity was noticed at all. After all, bottom line contributions from bike culture industries must be a fraction of other cultural institutions, even in a city like Portland. Not to poo-poo the article, but isn’t part of bicycle culture envisioning a smaller, more local, more easily customized economic reality?  Its a vision that works great at the Better Business Bureau but that may not have such long legs at City Hall. Regardless…bully for Portland.

Oh, did I mention how nice it was to notice great bicycle commuting infrastructure in the Bay Area during my recent visit?

Paris: The City of Bikes

The NYTimes has a story on the Vélib bicycles newly available for rent in Paris. The pricing system seems especially appropriate for bicycle commuters: free for the first half-hour, 1 euro for the second half-hour, 2 euros for the third half-hour and 4 euros for each half hour after that. Many factors would need to work together to make such a system work in the US, including size of the city (populous enough to support a regular ridership, but not so sprawly as to make short bike trips impractical), number and location of stations, and biking infrastructure, to name a few. NYC comes to mind as a place where the US version of the Vélib could take root. Modify the gear ratios, beef up the brakes and San Francisco might be in the running. Making the bikes tourist friendly may be a necessity, but it could also open up possibilities for cities like DC or Charleston, SC or numerous national parks.

Bike-friendly Plan Announced for 9th Ave NYC

NYC plans to reconfigure 7 blocks of 9th Avenue in Chelsea to make it friendlier for bicyclists. The plan involves positioning a bike lane between the sidewalk and a row of parked cars. (A buffer zone with barriers to prevent cars from entering the bike lane is also included.) See a New York Times article here. I wonder how these lanes will function at intersections, particularly with the pedestrian islands extending into the street? I’m in favor of more bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure, so I look forward to seeing this implemented–and one day riding it myself!