Cycling is the happy medium we need during a global pandemic: It’s quicker than walking and safer than taking public transportation. A recent spike in requests for cycling directions in Google Maps reflects that—jumping 69 percent since February and hitting an all-time high last month.
Google noticed. On Monday, the company vowed to “raise the (handle)bar” on biking routes—using a combination of machine learning, complex algorithms, and crowdsourced data to provide the most up-to-date options, including various forms of bike lanes and cycle-friendly streets.
“Whether people are hitting the road to get their heart pumping or commute safely during COVID-19, we’re making it easier for cyclists everywhere to get on their own bike or a shared one,” Maps Product Manager Vishal Dutta wrote in a blog post. In an attempt to keep up with the rapidly changing times (COVID-19, for instance, prompted some cities to add or widen bike lanes to encourage more riders), Google invites local government agencies to share changes via the Geo Data Upload tool.
No two-wheeler? No problem. Google Maps is rolling out more detailed information on bike sharing, like step-by-step walking and cycling directions to and from docking stations, plus live availability. In some cities, it even provides links to relevant bikeshare apps so you can easily book and unlock a vehicle. Docked bikeshare directions are rolling out now to 10 cities worldwide: Chicago (Divvy/Lyft), New York City (Citi Bike/Lyft), San Francisco (Bay Wheels/Lyft), and Washington, D.C., (Capital Bikeshare/Lyft) in the US; as well as London, Mexico City, Montreal, Rio De Janeiro, São Paulo, and Taipei/New Taipei City. Google is working to expand the function globally.