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Google Earth has smiled upon cyclists!

Google, one of the biggest, baddest, most innovative, and powerful companies on the planet has smiled upon the likes of cyclists.

On Wednesday, 10 March, Google launched bike route functionality to their amazing
Google Earth program. Users can now select to get directions from via car, bicycle, or walking.

When I first caught wind of this news, I'll admit I was very skeptical, so I tested it out. I tried getting directions from
Minneapolis, MN to Spooner, WI as it seemed like a good test for the system for both urban and rural route planning. What I found was shocking!

Not only did it route me on back roads with light traffic and bike lanes, it also routed me on the bike trails which I was shocked that Google knew about. Specifically, on this Minneapolis to Spooner route, it takes you on both the Gateway and Gandy Dancer Trails! Having been a cyclist living between Spooner and Minneapolis for most of my life, I pride myself in knowing the back roads between here and there better than almost anyone. Google nailed the route and even suggested a few roads that I am not aware of.

Above is the test route I tried from Minneapolis to Spooner

Of course there is also a mileage estimate and time in transit estimate. Google states that the time in transit estimate is for recreational riders, so you speedy folks will likely get there faster.

It turns out that there is a core team of 5 folks at Google that put this together in cooperation with the Rails to Trails Conservancy as well as other bicycle advocacy organizations to make this happen. It appears that these advocacy groups helped provide the immense amount of data to Google so that the software can suggest truly bikeable routes. Should you find any less than ideal cycling roads as recommended routes, there is also a feedback option where users can suggest other or more bikeable routes which can then be integrated into the system.

This is truly an exciting time to be a cyclist. If you're going somewhere, simply find the bike route on Google Earth, upload it to your Garmin GPS Unit, and you'll never stray off course!

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