Google Maps Bike There…for a safer, healthier, happier world. :-)

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Archive for March, 2008

10,000

March 03, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

Good work, y’all - we hit 10,000 signatures today. (Get the latest count here.) Thank you, everyone, for signing the petition, for telling your friends, blogging, etc.

I think it’s pretty clear that there is a great hunger for this functionality.

As for next steps, I think we should definitely continue to let people know about our petition and our enthusiasm for bikes and bicycle routes mapping. If 10,000 signatures is a strong show of support, then something more than 10,000 can only be a good thing.

In the very near term, I’m looking for some ‘industry numbers’ reflecting the size of the bicycle industry in America, and worldwide. I’d be interested to know of trends, and possibly breakdowns of ‘commuting’ vs. ‘racing’ vs. ‘leisure’ cycling.

I’m not sure what all Google does with its search data, but I suspect they’ve steadily seen ‘bicycle’-related searches continue to grow - that’s a good thing, for us. :)

Bike Hugger

March 03, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

Bike Hugger has written us up - thanks y’all!

One of the best parts about starting this initiative is that we’re all getting to find out about all the people who are out there doing good work and who are interested in seeing more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly cities and towns and communities. Very exciting stuff.

Incidentally, I now keep up with I don’t know how many bicycle blogs on a daily basis - 25? 50? more? And it’s pretty easy, and not as time-consuming as you might think - if you know how to use an RSS feed reader, that is. :)

If anyone is not yet an rss feed reader, then I would highly recommend looking at becoming one - it can make you more productive, save you time, make you a better person, etc. ;) OK - but it can save you time, and make you better informed, etc. Really, I like to see what everyone is up to - they come up with the good ideas, and then I try to tweak it to suit my local area. Reading blogs using a feed reader can help you find out about things like the Bicycle Film Festival, or introduce you to a whole new way to think about bicycles.

And I say that not because I am a technology snob (which, I suppose, I’m capable of being sometimes), but because I think it’s a game-changing tool that we can use to help keep each other informed and inspired. The most common frustration I experience is when I find out about some new and awesome bicycle advocacy group, and then find out that they don’t have a blog or an RSS feed. That makes it very difficult for me to keep up with what they’re doing. Signing up for their email list is just not feasible when I want to keep track of what so many different groups are up to. And bookmarking a site and going back and checking every hour/day/week/etc. is not feasible, either. Enter blogs and RSS feeds.

I’ve posted a simple introduction video, below, from a company called Common Craft. [Update: Removed embedded video because it was messing up WordPress. You can still find it here.]

Blogs Talking

March 03, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

We added a ‘Blogs Talking’ section to the column on the right-hand side, where you’ll be able to see the latest that the blogosphere is saying about our efforts. Some of the articles showing up there will be non-English, of course.

Thanks to Frank Bueltge for creating this ‘WP - RSS Import‘ plugin for WordPress.

Google Maps Mania

March 03, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

Google Maps Mania has told their audience about us, and we are very grateful.

If you’re unfamiliar with their blog, please check them out.

A vélo

March 03, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

Awesome. :)

How cool is it to see what a ‘Bike There’ feature might look like in another language?

googlemapavelo.png

I love it!

'Bike There' not just for cyclists

March 02, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

Providing bicycle route directions on Google Maps will make cyclists safer, but it will also make automobile drivers and pedestrians safer. Here’s how.

The diagram below is a snapshot from the Google Maps Satellite view of a section of Alma Street in Palo Alto, California, overlayed with some illustration by an expert diagrametician (me). :-) What is shown is a not-so-uncommon scenario along that stretch of road, which lies between downtown Palo Alto and California Ave - a bicyclist, cars, and pedestrians.

Two lanes in either direction - no shoulder - no bike lanes, and a small buffer zone on one side with a sidewalk on the other side of that buffer. This situation is very dangerous - I’ve witnessed it from behind the wheel of my car.

Dangerous situation for all - smaller

What happens is this - the cyclist doesn’t know that there is a bicycle lane/path on the opposite side of the railroad tracks, just to her south/on her right, and there is another bicycle lane a couple of blocks over, just to her north, on her left - on Bryant Street (Mid-Peninsula Bicycle Map (pdf)). Even without bicyclists, this road can get very hectic in a hurry, especially in any kind of inclement weather and during rush hours. If Google Maps made bicycle route mapping available, this cyclist would almost certainly be aware of these bicycle lanes and path, and she would use them.

It’s a bit difficult to get the proper perspective from just one picture, but the situation is actually very common across America, at least, and I suspect in other countries around the world. A cyclist can often feel ‘trapped’ - in this case, the cyclist sees nothing but railroad tracks to her right, and there is a neighborhood to her left, where she knows she can ride into if she’s interested in getting lost and never making it to her destination. So the only option left, she feels, is to ride as quickly as possible on this stretch of road which she very quickly becomes aware is not safe for her or anyone else. What else is there to do, really?

When she gets to work or school or wherever, she might remark to someone that part of her ride was dangerous, and maybe an experienced local cyclist will be able to help. That help may or may not include pulling out a gargantuan folded paper bicycle map - if you had access to an experienced local cyclist who happened to have a map on them. Or, that help might include jumping online and finding your town’s gargantuan PDF bicycle map and trying to figure out the safest way home that way. These situations are unlikely, not ideal, or some combination thereof. Google Maps can fix these problems by providing bicycle route information.

Back to the dangerous situation described in the picture, above — when a bicyclist is on this road, any number of things will play out - here are just four:

  1. Car driver just slows down and waits behind cyclist for some amount of time - probably longer than the car driver feels they should have to wait. Car driver eventually speeds around cyclist and may offer some ‘Good morning’-type pleasantries to the bicyclist for having slowed the car driver down, possibly informed the cyclist of his/her ‘lack of intelligence’, and may even offer a remedy for how the cyclist should go about fixing his/her intelligence problem. This situation may or may not escalate, may or may not include verbal threats of physical violence, the swerving of the automobile in the direction of the cyclist to physically threaten violence, etc.
  2. Car driver sees cyclist about to impede fast forward progress so speeds up and attempts to shift into left/passing lane ahead of the car on his/her left. This maneuver may or may not be successful, depending on any number of factors. A fun one to consider is when the driver already in the passing lane recognizes this same impending ‘traffic situation’ and speeds up to allow the car on his right to slide over into the passing lane without having to slow much - this means we now have two cars racing side by side towards the cyclist. Hopefully someone wins, because if one of them doesn’t, then the cyclist is going to be in major trouble.
  3. Car driver will have plenty of room to pass cyclist and will do so, and everyone is fine.
  4. The nightmare scenario - we don’t have to spell this one out. Any police officer or paramedic could detail what happens when hazardous road conditions and imperfect humans meet.

And while the bicycling conditions on this particular stretch of road might be hazardous, anyone who has ridden a bicycle around town, anyone who has driven a car that ‘got stuck’ behind a cyclist, and anyone who has walked a stretch of sidewalk along some crazy-looking roadway knows that these things happen all the time - possibly every day of your cycling/driving/walking life.

Bicycle routes shown directly in the core Google Maps service can make everyone safer. They will help us all lower our blood pressure. They can prevent road rage. They can give people more transportation options. They will help lessen traffic congestion.

Now, I have to plan my route to Zilker Park, where I’m going to watch the Zilker Park Kite Festival. Have a safe and happy day! :-)

facebook

March 01, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

There is a cause, and a group - take your pick! We’re trying to merge them, somehow.

Probably my fault - I must admit, I’m a bit of a Facebook novice. :-)

meant to post this as a ‘Page’ instead of a blog post - my bad. You should see a link up top, now.

Google Translate

March 01, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

The Google Translate widget has been installed over on the left. I came up with the idea after working with Pierre, our excellent French translator.

Since Pierre’s main blog is in French, I wondered if FeedBurner (Pierre’s RSS publisher, and we use FeedBurner for this site, also), could automatically provide RSS feeds in multiple languages. In other words, I wanted to subscribe to an English language version of Pierre’s RSS feed, which is in French.

FeedBurner is now owned by Google. So, perhaps after the Google Maps team is done building our bicycle map routing functionality, we can petition the FeedBurner team to work on this other feature.  ;-)