I like the Google Maps direction tools – in fact I find them about a million times more useful than the official MAXX website when it comes to public transport (not like that’s hard though!) So I was pretty excited to hear that a cycling option has been added for Auckland. Here’s the media release:
Auckland Transport is delighted to have partnered with Google as the global giant unveils its new cycle route journey planner throughout Australasia today.
Auckland Transport has provided the cycle route maps and infrastructure for the Auckland area which will allow users to view and plan cycle journeys using the Google Maps website and the mobile application. Wellington is the only other city in New Zealand to be included in the new planner.
The option to plan a cycle journey will sit alongside the existing walk, drive and public transport travel options on Google maps.
Auckland Transport already produces cycle maps area-based cycle maps which are being utilised by Google to get the ‘biking directions’ up and running.
“We are extremely proud to be part of this Google initiative”, says Auckland Transport’s Community Transport Manager, Mr Mathew Rednall. “This is a fantastic boost for cycling in Auckland, one which will literally revolutionise the way that cyclists use facilities and infrastructure across the city.
Maps Product Manager for Google Australia, Nabil Naghdy says the biking directions will help users plan point to point routes on cycle paths and roads preferred for cycling.” It also keeps cycling top of mind because it appears right next to driving directions within Google Maps. We really hope it will encourage more people to start using cycling for their commute and recreation.”
The new cycling feature includes step-by-step cycling directions, cycle trails outlined directly on the map and a new ‘cycling’ layer that indicates bike trails, bike lanes and bike-friendly roads. The biking directions will include information about bike trails, lanes and recommended roads. This will help users get a better sense of their route and find trails nearby for a recreational ride.
Mayor Len Brown has welcomed the route planner. “The promotion of cycling is an important part of the push to get Auckland moving, cutting congestion and keeping Aucklanders fit. The initiative is a great way to support that.”
With these journey planner tools, their usefulness comes down to a lot of devil in the detail. For public transport that relates to things like the extent to which people want to avoid transfering, the extent to which long walks should be avoided, the extent to which long waits should be avoided and so forth.
With cycling there are similarly a multitude of ways in which various the tool probably needs to be calibrated. To what extent are people likely to go out of their way to enjoy a higher quality piece of infrastructure, or avoid a dangerous road, or avoid a big hill? Testing the tool on my daily commute suggests that a bit of fine-tuning probably remains to be done over time:
I don’t cycle but I’m pretty sure if I did I’d rather take the relatively flat, high-quality northwest cycleway rather than the very hilly and rather dangerous Great North Road. I guess the tweaks will be applied over time to make the tool even more useful.