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March 11, 2010

Google Bike Maps - Pittsburgh to Boston Trailhead

Google has announced that their Google Maps application now attempts to provide bike routes. The routing algorithm prefers to use bike paths, lanes, and sharrows, and attempts to avoid hills and highways.

This is great. I asked it for a route from Pittsburgh PA to Washington DC and it routed me via the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal.
Google bike map, Pittsburgh to DC

Among bicyclists familiar with riding from Pittsburgh to DC, perhaps no other topic is as continually energetic as, "What is the best way to get from The Point to the trail in McKeesport-Boston?"
  • There is the Ft Pitt bridge, Station Square to Baldwin Trail, ~andcastle, and then 837 past Kennywood to the West Mifflin trailhead group.
    • There's a Jail Trail, Hot Metal Bridge, Baldwin Trail variation.
  • There is the Second Avenue, Glenwood Bridge, 885 to 837, Kennywood, West Mifflin contingent.
  • Finally, there's the schism group that believes it's irresponsible to advise any transient cyclist to ride north of Boston. (that's my denomination)
This discussion generates more passion than Helmet Wars and even the Recumbent Question. I thought it would be interesting to see which path Google picked from the Point to the trail in McKeesport or Boston. It choose this:
bike map, Pittsburgh Point to McKeesport or Boston bike trail

This is intriguing - Google choose the Second Avenue route out of downtown, followed by an unexpected direct (and hilly) route from the Glenwood Bridge to Boston PA. It works, and it's lower traffic than 837, but it'd be a lot of work on a bike loaded with panniers.

My review of Google Bike Maps: It's not as good as knowledge of the local area, but if you're unfamiliar and trying to plot a route it'll be a worthwhile tool. It would be wonderful if you could export the Google route into a Garmin GPS for on-bike navigation, but I realize that they're selling 'Droid phones so the GPS export probably isn't likely.

Update (courtesy of Mike from the GAP Yahoo Group): there's a third-party Google-Maps to GPX exporter at:


Nate said...



And, it's Pittsburgh -- it's hilly.

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