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14 August, 2006

The way forward?

A new Google Maps app offered by byCycle assists cyclists with route planning.  When one specifies a start and end point, the Trip Planner doesn't merely calculate the quickest or shortest path, but considers hills, traffic density and other factors that the basic Google algorithm, optimised for car drivers, ignores.

It's limited to a couple of US cities at present, but even if it was available in non-metropolitan areas of the UK, I'm not sure whether I'd use it myself.
I'm no cycling activist, and feel no urge to fight for special rights (quite the contrary), but my view is that cyclists are road users like any other. I'm not a second-class citizen to be tidied out of car drivers' way by being directed down cycle-friendly side-streets and dedicated cycle tracks. I want the main roads to be safer, and to take the direct routes (as I already do, generally).
My current daily commute follows part of the Council-defined cycle route simply because it is the most direct route. When I lived on the other side of town, I wouldn't have dreamt of using the much longer inconvenient route along back streets and off-street tracks, and I followed the main A6 road each day, amongst the cars and trucks, as is my right.

Whatever; I suppose byCycle's utility is a good idea for the more timid or less energetic cyclists.

Actually, backpedalling* slightly: perhaps this'd be a really good idea for all cyclists. ;)
My problem is with officially-designated cycle routes, which are plainly devised to keep cyclists off main roads even if that means sending them over unnecessary hills or by much longer circuitous routes, and I don't believe that's done primarily for the cyclists. If this utility could use unbiased raw topographic and traffic data to determine genuinely optimised routes, ignoring official designations, great.

[Via the CCA blog.]

*: Ahem. That pun was accidental, honest.

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