Test-driving Google

When Google unveiled its bicycling directions a couple weeks ago, my virtual social network was all a-twitter about it. Even though I’m a big fan of Google’s many resources, I doubted that its mapping capabilities had much to offer me that I wasn’t aware of. So it was great to find I had underestimated Google on my bike commute to EMS this morning. I mean, it was really great.

Instead of my usual stress-fueled 10-mile bike ride, Google’s route treated me to quieter roads — and this is worthy of note — no need to flip anyone off today! That’s amazing. And no, I didn’t ride an extra 20 miles to find those alternatives either; all I had to do was click on the “Bicycle Route” button. That means I’ve been riding parallel to quieter roads for months without knowing it (d’oh!). Sure, there were more twists and turns involved, but the payoff included some very scenic neighborhoods and old backroads lined with big trees.

While I was 70 percent more relaxed after such a lovely commute, I must note that I was only about 70 percent satisfied with Google.

First, there was one catch, about a half-mile long. It was called Cedar Street on the directions …. in reality, it’s not suitable for a skinny-wheel bike. In fact, it probably hasn’t been a public way for a few decades. I successfully navigated this unpaved road through a swampy area, but it really shouldn’t have been on the directions. On the way home I walked the bike through it but will find an alternative for when I’m in a hurry.

Google's bicycle directions included this less-than-perfect "road"

What I’d REALLY like to see Google do is provide off-road options as well. I mean, being able to call up trail maps on my Blackberry would have saved me a LOT of anxiety when I got lost skiing at Bradley Palmer State Park last January (and my phone GPS wasn’t much help).

And, oh, while you’re at it? How about directions that allow bikers to avoid major wheel-chomping potholes? Because Cedar Street also included these beauties (I counted: there are four layers of pavement in this hole):

I challenge Google to map giant potholes like these!

I mean, if we can see craters on the moon with the naked eye …

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