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ugh! google maps

Old 05-09-10, 10:39 PM
  #1  
dashuaigeh
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ugh! google maps

A friend and I recently took a weekend trip out of town. Our destination was 80 miles away, and planned to bike 40 miles to a state park, where we were supposed to get picked up by friends the next morning for time constraints. Unfortunately, the weekend constraint meant we took off Friday afternoon, and after we took a 10 mile unintentional detour in the wrong direction, it was dark, and we were biking on fairly busy roads with small or no shoulders. To make it worse, my friend ended up running over a piece of shrapnel that tore a 1/2 cm gash in his Pasela TGs. Thanks to the grace of strangers, we got a ride to the park anyways, but the whole ordeal was kind of scary.

Anyhow, one of many lessons learned is that Google bicycling directions are not the greatest. They send you on busy highways with barely any shoulder, and many of the county roads suggested are actually private gated roads. Any recommendations on how to get good directions for such a tour? I've heard mixed reviews on GPS devices; any opinons?
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Old 05-09-10, 10:44 PM
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Google maps are a suggestion, not a mandate. You have to use your head.

I used Google Maps to route me to work. I saw that it took me along some roads I did not was not about to ride down. I moved the route a little and now have a safe, sane, enjoyable ride.
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Old 05-09-10, 10:49 PM
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true, but I doubt my head would have been any more use in the situation, having never biked that far out (or in that area) before.
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Old 05-09-10, 10:57 PM
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I tend to cross check my google maps route with Google Street View. StreetView should give you a fair idea of the road conditions on your route. If the road looks bad for cycling, find an alternate route, and check it again on Street View.
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Old 05-09-10, 11:48 PM
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When planning a bike route in unknown territory, the best thing to do is--in advance--ask people who bike there regularly; for example, on this forum.

No mapping website is going to be able to show you all the traffic/street conditions. Street View may or may not show you the traffic density you may encounter, as it's just a snapshot of whenever the Street View vehicle happened to be there; at best it can show you where roads are gated off or marked as private property (a clue being Street View omitting coverage of some section of a street where everything else around is covered).

The Google Maps folks have been quite responsive when I've reported problems with bike routes Google Maps has chosen. I strongly recommend you send them feedback. User contributions are a big part of improving Google Maps' biking directions.
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Old 05-09-10, 11:52 PM
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that's a great idea - thanks Dorky Pants. I'll try to leave feedback too; its already a nice gesture for them to introduce the bike option.
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Old 05-10-10, 05:50 AM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by dashuaigeh View Post
A friend and I recently took a weekend trip out of town. Our destination was 80 miles away, and planned to bike 40 miles to a state park, where we were supposed to get picked up by friends the next morning for time constraints. Unfortunately, the weekend constraint meant we took off Friday afternoon, and after we took a 10 mile unintentional detour in the wrong direction, it was dark, and we were biking on fairly busy roads with small or no shoulders. To make it worse, my friend ended up running over a piece of shrapnel that tore a 1/2 cm gash in his Pasela TGs. Thanks to the grace of strangers, we got a ride to the park anyways, but the whole ordeal was kind of scary.

Anyhow, one of many lessons learned is that Google bicycling directions are not the greatest. They send you on busy highways with barely any shoulder, and many of the county roads suggested are actually private gated roads. Any recommendations on how to get good directions for such a tour? I've heard mixed reviews on GPS devices; any opinons?

In a case like this, where you have the time before the ride ......do more homework on the roads. Try using Bing Maps' Bird's Eye View. These are taken from an airplane, so the detail can be incredible. Better than satellite photos. https://www.bing.com/maps/default.asp...n-US&FORM=BYFD
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Old 05-10-10, 05:55 AM
  #8  
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>> I've heard mixed reviews on GPS devices; any opinons?

A gps will lead you down stray roads just as readily as Google maps cycling option. Both require judgement to stay out of trouble.

I use the cycling/walking options to rough out a route. Satellite, street views, personal knowledge, and common sense to assist with refining it. As I don't use gps at all, I transfer the Google route to paper maps. If I wanted to use a gps, I'd transfer the route over to www.ridewithgps.com and download the waypoints.
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Old 05-10-10, 08:20 AM
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On my recent tour in southwest Utah, Google maps took me on a nice route, until the road turned into dirt, and then under construction. I had to double back, take a different road (suggested by locals), and ended up missing my campground entirely and getting a motel. You get what you pay for.
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Old 05-10-10, 08:23 AM
  #10  
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paper maps, google, bing, gps. They all have accuracy issues and none of them tell you traffic conditions. So, it is the tourer that needs to be prepared for the unexpected. Always allow lots of time to get to your destination if you don't know the route conditions. Be prepared to alter your plans. Be prepared to spend the night somewhere you didn't intend. Not comfortable , but safer than trying to ride a busy highway at night.
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Old 05-10-10, 09:01 AM
  #11  
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Contact the state's DOT, often they may have bicycle maps and vehicle counts for each road and though they are still far from infallible, they generally do a better job.

For example in Illinois:

https://www.dot.state.il.us/bikemap/state.html

https://gettingaroundillinois.com/default.aspx?ql=aadt
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Old 05-10-10, 09:49 AM
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thanks for all the tips - will check out bing, ridewithgps.com, and the DOT for sure.
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Old 05-10-10, 10:46 AM
  #13  
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Mapping tools are fantastic for setting up rides, figuring out mileage, planning multi-day trips, etc.

But for finding good, ridable roads there is *no* substitute for getting advice and stealing ideas from others. *Especially* since you are from Austin, you should check around for the "favorite" routes of local clubs and groups. Most times they post their routes online for you to look at. Look up every shop ride, randonneur route, touring club ride, and organized charity ride, century, etc. that you can find in the area. If you dive into the routes that these rides take, you'll quickly figure out that there are "favorite" routes that get used over and over. Also, check sites like www.bikely.com or www.mapmyride.com to see the rides that other local riders have already mapped out.

You still have to use some caution and skepticism -- but stealing ideas from clubs and organized routes will show you lots of good places to ride.

(BTW, there is a club called "Hill Country Bicycle Touring Club," based in San Antonio, I think, that has posted lots of Hill Country routes on their website....)
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Old 05-10-10, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
Also, check sites like www.bikely.com or www.mapmyride.com to see the rides that other local riders have already mapped out.
bengeboy, those are fantastic sites. i have now wasted approximately half an hour at work looking at them.
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Old 05-10-10, 03:39 PM
  #15  
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Last I looked (and I just checked again a few minutes ago), Google maps still does not acknowledge the existence of a dam and resulting lake in central Alberta. The dam was built back in the mid-1980s and there's a whole paved road system around that area which I've ridden several times ... including the road over the dam. But the Google maps doesn't show any of it ... Google maps shows the area as it was pre-mid-1980s.

Therefore, if you were cycling around central Alberta, for example, you'd be much better off buying a map from the local service station or dropping in at a tourist information centre and picking up one of their maps. You'd at least be getting a map in this century ... and it would have the dam, the lake, and the surrounding roads.

Google maps might be a rough guideline, but there is absolutely no guarantee it is up to date. According to it, that busy road with no shoulder was probably a small, quiet, country road ... based on information from the late 1970s.
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Old 05-11-10, 07:42 AM
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The Google maps biking directions are based on real life experience in a few cities... Madison WI and Portland OR are two. Dunno if Austin is on the list.

And that said... even in a city where the preferred bike routes for their algorithm were picked by actual people who ride the actual roads... sometimes the instructions it gives are flat out bonkers. Sometimes the bonkers is it tries to send you on a big arterial when there's a perfectly good small street with low traffic and no bike lanes. Other times, it does the maximum to keep you on a "bike path", even when it adds a mile and a lot of sidewalk riding to a less than one mile trip.

So... don't trust the route to be good until you've actually ridden it. You don't have any way to tell Google "I'm an experienced rider who is hard to startle, I have a passionate hatred for being routed through parking lots, and I'm not great at making left turns on high-speed arterials without the help of a left turn arrow. Also, I'm perfectly capable of walking my bike if it's shorter." Yes, I've had all of those come up as issues. I can also get Google to route me onto roads that I would not bike, since biking on a road where the posted limit is 35, the observed limit is 65 and it is almost what a Pennsylvanian would call hilly and curvy is... not bright.

What it *is* good for is finding bike paths and designated bike routes that you didn't know about. If you combine the bike layer with the walking directions and the "avoid highways" car option, you'll end up with some pretty good route ideas.
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Old 05-11-10, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by parecon89 View Post
I tend to cross check my google maps route with Google Street View. StreetView should give you a fair idea of the road conditions on your route. If the road looks bad for cycling, find an alternate route, and check it again on Street View.
^^ I do this as much as possible.
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Old 05-11-10, 11:45 AM
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Google maps is a great starting point. I've stopped using Bikely and Mapmyride at all, and now use Google's bicycle directions to plan my routes, and my GPS when on the road supplemented with paper maps.

When you come across bike paths not on the map (or get routed onto streets inappropriate for biking, I'd suggest using the "report a problem" link on each page to tell them. I do this fairly often, and Google does fix these problems.
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Old 05-20-10, 08:22 AM
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I carry a copy of the delorme atlas & gazetteer map for the state i'm in. Its extra weight, but i like to be able to improvise on the fly.
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Old 05-22-10, 09:52 AM
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Google Maps used to license map data from Navteq, and then from TeleAtlas. Recently they switched to their own map data. While that resulted in some improvements, in my neck of the woods they also suddenly included a lot of farm roads, abandoned roads now on private property, and other paths that are not public rights of way. I have reported dozens of these to Google, but some of them still show up in route planning, especially for walking or cycling. It's irritating.
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Old 05-22-10, 02:47 PM
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I've seen these kinds of complaints a lot and the answer is always to use your best judgement when using google bike maps.

That said I like to look at it from google's/developer's perspective. How do you know which roads are good for biking on? Traffic and shoulder width are huge factors for cyclists, however, that data might not be in Google's database (for the shoulders at least).

This is a huge problem for us. How are you supposed to know which roads to take if you haven't been there before? When I went on tour I liked to ask people what the traffic is like on the route ahead. Usually the answer was: really bad. Having that information never changed my route though because my maps only showed one road so taking detours weren't possible (adventure cycling maps).

I don't think I could have done much better in most circumstances though. The worst roads are so bad because nobody has a choice when they need to get from point A to point B. You have to take road X.

I suspect that it's really bad in TX.
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Old 05-22-10, 08:21 PM
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Even Paul Krugman hates google maps. Right around his home it gives driving directions over a bridge that has been closed to all but cyclists and peds for over a decade. Near my home it showed a connection over a hill on a route I regularly ride. Unfortunately, there is no connection there and the "road" it showed is someone's yard (a few hundred acres of yard, but not really passable).
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Old 05-22-10, 09:12 PM
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I think the Google bicycle thing is a definite pre-beta that should have waited a bit until unveiling. At the same time, eventually Google will aggregate and refine this to the point to which ACA maps are unneeded, except by those who want all the services/hotels, etc. listed on them. Hard to guess the timeframe, but at some point these online maps will combine with electronics leaving 95% of tourers hard-copy map-free.

And I say that as someone who really likes maps, esp. the hard-copy ones.
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Old 05-23-10, 04:37 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
Even Paul Krugman hates google maps. Right around his home it gives driving directions over a bridge that has been closed to all but cyclists and peds for over a decade. Near my home it showed a connection over a hill on a route I regularly ride. Unfortunately, there is no connection there and the "road" it showed is someone's yard (a few hundred acres of yard, but not really passable).
It is very easy to report that kind of mistake and it is corrected quite readily.
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Old 05-23-10, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by JeanM View Post
It is very easy to report that kind of mistake and it is corrected quite readily.
Easy to report: yes
Corrected quite readily: not necessarily. See my post above.

Moreover, I discovered yesterday that an error I had reported when Google Maps was using TeleAtlas data was reproduced when Google switched over to its own data.
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