Google has substantiated the COVID-19 bike boom by confirming that requests for cycling directions in Google Maps have jumped by a whopping 69 percent since February, hitting an all-time high.
Worldwide search interest for “bike repair near me” also hit an all-time high this month—more than double what it was last year.
And while a lot of keen bike riders lean toward more exercise-focused applications like Strava, it is good to know that as our transportation behaviours adapt around COVID-19 restrictions, the world's most powerful search engine is making an effort to keep up.
In a recent blog post, Google announced some new biking features aimed at support the growing number of people jumping on bikes as a safe and affordable form of transport and/or exercise.
Google Maps product manager Vishal Dutta said:
"To give you the most up-to-date bike route, we use a combination of machine learning, complex algorithms and our understanding of real-world conditions based on imagery and data from government authorities and community contributions.
We also consider various forms of bike lanes and nearby streets that might be less friendly for your two wheels (like tunnels, stairs and poor surface conditions) so you can have the best and smoothest biking route. You can also see how flat or steep your route will be, so you’ll know if you’re in for an easy breezy ride or one that will really get the heart pumping."
He also said that they are working hard to input hundreds of thousands of new bike lanes and infrastructure updates put in place in cities around the world since the pandemic hit.
But the biggest update from Google Maps was that they're now integrating bikeshare information in their directions, including walking directions to nearby bikeshare stations, live dock availability updates and links to open the relevant bikeshare apps to book a bike.
Biking to your next socially distanced hangout? 🚲
— Google Maps (@googlemaps) July 20, 2020
These features are only available in 10 cities who have large scale bikeshare networks, namely Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Washington DC, London, Mexico City, Montreal, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Taipei – for now.
If you're new to riding or looking for a new route, of course Google is a great place to start. But it is important to remember (in their words) "directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, weather, or other events may cause conditions to differ from map results."
In our Tips and Resources – How to plan a bike route, we also recommend asking a bike riding friend, as other local riders are often the best source for the safest, fastest, smoothest or most enjoyable route.
For Melbourne riders still in lockdown, we've listed a few handy resources below:
- Places to ride during lockdown
- Melbourne's top family-friendly bike trails
- North, south, east, west – Riding into Melbourne
- People who ride bikes – Melbourne, Facebook Group
- Cycling maps - local government areas
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.