Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Google Maps learns to bike

Google Maps does free offline navigation, sort of. You need a live internet connection to calculate routes, and you can only download 6 map areas of about 80 MB each. The maps for some countries are only available online, because Google Maps won't let you download them.

But the free competitors use OpenStreetMap, which has some issues of its own. OpenStreetMap is sometimes very outdated and non-urban areas are often terra incognito. Especially outside the USA and the nortwestern part of Europe.

Google Maps calculates routes for driving and walking, but bike routes were limited to two countries only.

That changed. Google Maps now knows the bike lanes in twelve countries. Nine of the ten new countries with bike navigation are in Europe, the tenth is Australia. Canada and the USA already had bike navigation.

The calculated bike routes are not always good. For example, Google Maps doesn't know about the bike lanes in the park next to my house, so it sends me to the busy street that runs next to it. The green dotted lines for bike-friendly streets without bike lanes look rather clumsy, especially when you zoom out.

Maybe Google will improve their bike route calculation. And add offline route calculation. Until then there are times when you may be better off with OsmAnd.

Google Maps

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