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Old 05-02-14, 09:37 PM   #1
andyprough
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Google maps and bike trails

I love Google's bike map directions for Austin - they've got some great advice on routes to take that are bike friendly.

Today, I ran into a funny situation where Google maps was advising me to take a shortcut that showed up as a bike trail between two larger streets. Of course, I love finding new paths and routes, so I was totally up for it and followed my Android phone GPS right down the path. After a quarter mile, the trail turned into a six-inch wide dirt path, and then after another quarter mile turned into a dry creek bed full of huge rocks I wasn't going to be able to ride over with my comfort/hybrid. This was called Cactus Ridge Trail. I was amazed that this path had been scouted out to the extent that you could GPS through it, but if I had been riding a decent mountain bike it would have been pretty cool.

I plan to scout out a lot more of these trails that are showing up on the Google maps for Austin, although I'm sure I'll find a lot of these weird little paths and gulleys. I'll keep track of the decent paths, but the creek beds filled with large rocks won't become part of my commute unless I decide to get back into more serious mountain biking like I was in my 20's.

Here's a nice picture from the Austin Parks website of the part of the path I was able to navigate - it's a bit more overgrown than this picture right now:



Anyone else strapping an Android phone to their bike and trying out Google's bike GPS directions? Finding anything interesting? I'm amazed at the number of alternate routes - Austin seems like a whole new city to bike through now.
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Old 05-02-14, 10:21 PM   #2
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That's pretty neat. Personally, I find GoogleEarth and the ability to look at satellite images combined with elevation data more useful than the GoogleMaps database of bike routes, since not all of the less obvious bike routes around here are in the database (yet). However, you can help add bike routes to GMaps by using Mapmaker.

Here's a good example of a fun connector I found using GoogleEarth, you'd never know the little trail in the middle of the screen was there unless you lived nearby and happened to walk around in the park to the east, because the western end of this little connector is totally hidden from the road (Mark Dabling Blvd.) by the railroad tracks (odd rectangles in the picture are a train of empty coal cars). Just for fun, note that the headquarters building for the USA Cycling organization is right behind this trail:
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Old 05-02-14, 11:37 PM   #3
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I have used google maps on iPhone, but i use the audio directions... Is it weird to follow orders that come from your pocket?

- Andy
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Old 05-03-14, 07:34 AM   #4
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I have used google maps on iPhone, but i use the audio directions... Is it weird to follow orders that come from your pocket?

- Andy
No - that's a great way to follow directions. If I'm driving, I usually throw the phone in the cupholder and listen to directions.
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Old 05-03-14, 10:32 AM   #5
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How much data are you burning through? I've got a Nexus 7 running Kit Kat that I'm trying to set up nav w/TTS and GMaps is happiest when there is a network connection but I need offline capability.
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Old 05-03-14, 11:10 AM   #6
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How much data are you burning through? I've got a Nexus 7 running Kit Kat that I'm trying to set up nav w/TTS and GMaps is happiest when there is a network connection but I need offline capability.
I'm running KitKat on a Motorola and with networking turned on to support GPS I'm using 80-110 MB per week of my data plan. My plan throttles at 2.5GB per month, but I'll never even come close to that. Other than supporting GPS positioning, I mainly just use data to check emails. When I'm not riding I turn off GPS to conserve the battery - GPS seems to be the biggest battery drain for my phone. I leave data on all the time.
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Old 05-03-14, 12:10 PM   #7
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There's a feature in Google Maps called "Google Map Maker" - in the lower right corner of the old Google Maps (not the new version I've seen), click that and you can add new bike paths or redesignate roads that are "bike-friendly". I encourage you to make any edits as necessary. I recently redid the map for the Wilmington, NC area to make the bike routes line up with the City of Wilmington's bike map along with what I've seen from riding around.
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Old 05-04-14, 07:50 PM   #8
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See also Strava Routes and Heatmap.
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Old 05-04-14, 08:58 PM   #9
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How much data are you burning through? I've got a Nexus 7 running Kit Kat that I'm trying to set up nav w/TTS and GMaps is happiest when there is a network connection but I need offline capability.
I am the one guy viciously clinging to his att unlimited data plan from when i first got my first iPhone.

Even with casual GPS usage, be it facebook or siri, my data rarely goes over 2-3 gigs, and this includes whenever maps or google maps is even open let alone doing directions or live traffic. I'll take a look at muh bill and see whats what next time i have a minute.

The main thing i use GPS for is directions when i am a passenger in a car, because for some reason people do not trust directions from my brain (being a cyclist i kinda have to know where i'm going, a source of ongoing irritation... ). Sometimes i will use mapmyhike to track grocery trips so i can compare times and speeds laden and unladen, and how different weather affects me or different attire etc.

Today on my way home on a 8 mile round trip, i hit 28.8 mph..... have not been up in the 30 mph range in several years!

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Old 05-04-14, 09:09 PM   #10
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One thing i do like is google maps where you can manipulate the route. It does recognize the newtown trail (from neshaminy creek by tyler park into the borough), and the roads in the park. I just wish you could use it to create a route that recognizes shortcuts, of which there are about 10, some you need to dismount for, others you just need to take slowly & watch out for hazards like glass and trucks etc, and full disclosure one is grey area legal, but i only use it at 3 am so no one really cares (or is there) & only use it because the alternative is 10x less safe.

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Old 05-04-14, 11:05 PM   #11
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28.8 mph?? Guess that sweet new bike is a speed demon, eh Andy? I'm assuming that was downhill?
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Old 05-05-14, 01:05 PM   #12
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Google maps is great, but I usually use satellite to verify as much as I can. Bike routes are put in by people like you and me. Although you do need someone to verify your change, it still ends up with paths that are sometimes hard core mountain bike. I do wish they could differentiate between commuter maps and mountain bike maps.

This is a new tool from Strava that shows where their user bike. It is great for finding new bike routes. Again, use it with a grain of salt. Just because someone rides a path every Sunday morning, doesn’t mean the road will be useful for a commute during rush hour. Still, I get lots of great ideas of where to go from using this:

http://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#13/-...8383/gray/bike
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Old 05-05-14, 01:31 PM   #13
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I question some of the "advice" that Google Maps is giving us, here in Sudbury.

The first part (right end) of the solid green line from KR Thompson to the "ss" in bypass is so very rough, up and down outcrops of rock that even a mountain bike would have to be lifted. The green dotted line of Gibson Road is a rough, dirt road, full of potholes and, because it is spring, very muddy and not a suitable road at all.

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Old 05-05-14, 01:38 PM   #14
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On my Nokia Windows phone I have downloaded all the maps to the device and can use it while totally off line, with the GPS turned on. It works great. I have recently returned from a 2 week Euro trip where I had my US based cellphone data and wireless turned off but was able to use my phone as a gps perfectly.
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Old 05-05-14, 01:46 PM   #15
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How the heck do you edit in bike friendly roads????

I added a few sections of trail but it wouldn't let me add roads to the bike database.

Or are nice wide curbs or other biking friendly features unaddable? Shame, that.
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Old 05-05-14, 01:48 PM   #16
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Google maps is great, but I usually use satellite to verify as much as I can. Bike routes are put in by people like you and me. Although you do need someone to verify your change, it still ends up with paths that are sometimes hard core mountain bike. I do wish they could differentiate between commuter maps and mountain bike maps.

This is a new tool from Strava that shows where their user bike. It is great for finding new bike routes. Again, use it with a grain of salt. Just because someone rides a path every Sunday morning, doesn’t mean the road will be useful for a commute during rush hour. Still, I get lots of great ideas of where to go from using this:

http://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#13/-...8383/gray/bike

That Strava heat map is still a little bit questionable - here in Wilmington there's a 6 lane divided road (not restricted access but a very busy road) and it shows up as red on the map! Wonder who's been biking on there because I've never seen anyone.
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Old 05-05-14, 01:49 PM   #17
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I question some of the "advice" that Google Maps is giving us, here in Sudbury.

The first part (right end) of the solid green line from KR Thompson to the "ss" in bypass is so very rough, up and down outcrops of rock that even a mountain bike would have to be lifted. The green dotted line of Gibson Road is a rough, dirt road, full of potholes and, because it is spring, very muddy and not a suitable road at all.

Through using Google Map Maker, I've found out that whenever someone adds an off-road path, it defaults to both a bicycle and pedestrian friendly path. So what most likely happened is someone added the trail and didn't change any of the pedestrian/bicycle defaults.
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Old 05-05-14, 01:53 PM   #18
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How the heck do you edit in bike friendly roads????

I added a few sections of trail but it wouldn't let me add roads to the bike database.

Or are nice wide curbs or other biking friendly features unaddable? Shame, that.
The only feature I've used in the Wilmington area for Google Map Maker is this (for trails, it'll be near the top):
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Old 05-05-14, 02:14 PM   #19
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The only feature I've used in the Wilmington area for Google Map Maker is this (for trails, it'll be near the top):
I used that to make the mup additions. I'm just surprised there was no option to add bike friendly roads.
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Old 05-05-14, 02:17 PM   #20
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I used that to make the mup additions. I'm just surprised there was no option to add bike friendly roads.
Well by changing the "Bicycle suitability" to preferred for a section of road - you are noting that on Google Maps as a bike friendly route - it'll show up as either green or dotted green, green if there's an on-street bike lane or adjacent trail, dotted green if the road is bike friendly (and it'll more often than not try and route bikes down there - sometimes it gives stupid directions still but it's just a computer program).
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Old 05-05-14, 02:32 PM   #21
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28.8 mph?? Guess that sweet new bike is a speed demon, eh Andy? I'm assuming that was downhill?

Actually, i do not like going fast downhill, as the braking force needed to stop increases quite a bit, as does the chances of an "over the front" tumble. It was on a slight hill, you dont really know its inclined unless you're at the top or bottom.. There isnt enough space between intersections for me to get up to speed in top "gear" in town here, though i have hit 25 steady on the bypass after i put a different seat on...

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Old 05-05-14, 04:20 PM   #22
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An alternative to GMaps for the Android users looking to reduce/eliminate data is OsmAnd Offline (free and premium). Has car, bike, and pedestrian routing options, supports TTS output, and a bunch of POIs baked in.
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Old 05-06-14, 10:08 AM   #23
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That Strava heat map is still a little bit questionable - here in Wilmington there's a 6 lane divided road (not restricted access but a very busy road) and it shows up as red on the map! Wonder who's been biking on there because I've never seen anyone.
That is what I am saying. YOu got a group of guys doing a club ride every sunday morning all using Strava, and the route will show high useage. A road that is empty on Sunday AM, may not be useful for most people.


I know the clubs and the individual riders around me, and find the maps very accurate. But the routes they ride early morning on the weekends may not be useful for others. It makes a difference if you are in a back of a dozen bikers, or going solo too.
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Old 05-07-14, 03:07 AM   #24
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Just a heads up, google iOS app was just updated to 3.0. I'm gonna poke it a bit & see what's what....

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Old 05-07-14, 04:20 PM   #25
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With AT&T family plans, you can now share 10 GB of data per month. Our bills just went down hugely. We have four phones on our plan. With this change, we can also all tether our tablets or computers to our phones. I'm a happy customer!
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