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Google will today turn on UK cycle-specific routing on its Maps feature. Sustrans' National Cycle Network routes are included.

Google Maps’ ‘Bicycling’ route-finding arrives in UK

The US has had the ‘Bicycling option on Google Maps’ turn-by-turn journey planner since 2010. The UK gets it today: Google will turn on the feature at 5pm has now turned on the service.

The bike journey option joins the public transport, walking and driving options on Google Maps. Originally called ‘Bike There’ when it launched in the US, Google’s bike routing service is now called ‘Bicycling’.

Just as the US version of ‘Bicycling’ was created thanks to collaboration with cycling groups, the UK version was made possible thanks to cooperation from Sustrans.

The Google Maps Bicycling routing feature is available on iPhones, but will be lost when Apple replaces Google Maps with its own mapping.

Existing bike routing apps – which route cyclists on bike paths and already use Sustrans’ National Cycle Network routes, when these routes are the best to use – include those from Bike Hub and Cyclestreets. These apps use OS and OpenStreetMap mapping, rather than Google Maps.

Ed Parsons, geospatial technologist at Google UK said: "We know how popular cycling is in London and the rest of the UK, which is why we are thrilled to bring cycling directions to Google Maps.

“Thanks to Sustrans, we now have thousands of miles of trails and routes, as well as bike lanes and recommended streets for cities across the country. “We’ll continue to add new trail information and urge commuters to swap their car for a bike as they can now find a convenient route that makes use of dedicated bike tracks and avoid hills whenever possible."

Sustrans’ Chief Executive, Malcolm Shepherd said: “Google has given cycling equal status to driving and using public transport – we need our politicians and local councils to do the same.”

Previously, Sustrans has been unwilling to use Google Maps on its online mapping features. The charity once said: "Google mapping is not consistently detailed enough in all areas of the country for our needs. Also areas of shadow created, for example by tree-lined lanes, can obscure important information for cyclists and walkers. We believe that Ordnance Survey backgrounds give much better detail in both rural and urban areas."

However, the ubiquity of Google Maps makes info-sharing a sensible move for the charity. And Sustrans is marking the occasion with the release of new video, ‘Lucy’s Cycling Treasure Hunt’. It’s a romantic tale of a couple reigniting their love thanks to a Google Maps mystery tour by bicycle.

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