Sunday, October 07, 2012

Google Maps for Cyclists, Great but…

Whilst cleaning the layers of papers, mail, scribbled notes and similar off the desk in the office, I came across the August September  issue of  "Radwelt", the ADFC members' magazine. I scanned through it to see if there was anything of interest I could use in the blog before I flung it in the bin. A big mistake, because I started to read it so the pile of papers on the desk stayed the same. I found a paragraph on the new Google Maps cyclist routing function. Basically the "Get Directions" function has been extended to include bicycles.  The bicycle routing app does not yet work in Germany, but has been opened for use in Switzerland and in Austria. If you request a cycle route in Germany, you receive the message: "We could not calculate directions between …" although you are shown the cycle paths and routes in the area of interest. These still need a lot of work, at least around Viernheim, where for example the signposted cycle route along the old railway line to Lampertheim is not shown.

I checked out cycle routes in Switzerland. As test routes I used Grindelwald to Meiringen and Andermatt to Basel.

  • There are two cycle routes between Grindelwald and Meiringen: 
  • Grindelwald to Interlaken and follow National routes 8 and 9 to Meiringen on the south side of Lake Brienz. 
  • Grindelwald via Grosse Scheidegg and Rosenlaui to Meiringen.
  • Both of these routes are to be found in our Cicerone Guide: "Cycle Touring in Switzerland", ISBN: 9781852845261.
  • Google Maps suggests neither route. It shows a route down to Interlaken and then along the main road between Interlaken and Brienz on the north side of the lake. You can pull the route using the cursor across the screen to follow one or both of the suggestions above. This is fine if you know the area, but less than useful if you don't.

  • There are again two signposted cycle routes between Andermatt and Basel
  • Swiss National Cycle Route 2 along the Rhine.
  • Swiss National Cycle Route 3 through Lucerne and Aarau
  • The Google route follows neither following "Route 2" through Schwyz, Arth and Rheinfelden. What this Route 2 is not clear. It could be Road 2. You can pull the route using the cursor across the screen to follow one or both of the suggestions above. This is fine if you know the area, but less than useful if you don't.

Before one uses Google Maps to work out cycle routes in Switzerland, we would advise cyclists to obtain a copy of Switzerland Touristic Cycling Map (1:301 000) from Kümmerly + Frey ISBN3-359-00533-1 or check out the maps section of Once Google Maps suggests a route then check to see if it does really follow cycle routes and modify it accordingly, if needed.

PS We have informed Google and await their reaction.

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