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Google Maps collaborates with Transport for London to provide cyclists with safer and quieter navigation with dedicated cycling infrastructure

"Hey Google, take me from Brentford to Paddington (without having me go through Kensington High Street, please)"...

Transport for London (TfL) has announced that it has collaborated with Google to improve navigation for cyclists by offering them less busy routes with dedicated cycling infrastructure, improving cycling journeys across London and potentially around the world too.

Informed by data insights from TfL, Google has updated their algorithms to prioritise cycling on safer, quieter roads and make them easier to discover within Google Maps.

The debate for the best app to navigate a bike in London has raged on ever since Sat Navs became a thing, with most cyclists who use one of the apps having a clear preference — be it Google Maps, Apple Maps, or something more dedicated for cycling like Strava.

Recently, Apple had also updated its database and software to offer better directions for cyclists, with the Cupertino-based company's CEO Tim Cook revealing himself as a "lifelong cycling fan", amidst the now-quashed rumours of Apple taking over Jumbo as the sponsor for the sport's most dominant team currently, Jumbo-Visma.

> Is Apple Maps good for cycling?

London was the only UK city in which Apple claimed to provide a dedicated cycling navigation system, and now with the help of TfL, Google seems to have not only caught up, but maybe gone a step further in committing to make cycling more enjoyable in the capital.

In July 2022 at a TfL summit, cyclists had told TfL that some of the key barriers to cycling include the need for travel planning tools to include up-to-date data. Despite having delivering more than 340 kilometres of cycle routes in London, existing digital journey planners were not always taking them into account and therefore not providing the best route for cycling.

> Google Maps makes major update to cycling navigation

Since the summit, Google has worked with TfL’s Open Innovation team. This new collaboration approach has allowed TfL to provide pre-launch feedback on product enhancements and means TfL can continue to feedback as the product develops further.

Google is also reportedly set to roll out new additional features, such as enabling cyclists to see what type of road they’ll be cycling on, for example, if it’s a major road or a segregated cycle lane.

Google has also announced Immersive View for cycle routes on Google Maps, which lets users preview routes in advance, including all the cycle lanes, and junctions along the journey.  This feature will begin rolling out this year in London and other select cities around the world.  

TfL will continue to work with Google Maps to refine the cycling routing experience during the roll out. People can also use the “Send Feedback” option in Google Maps if they spot any routes that have better alternatives.

> Is a smartphone better than a cycling computer? Find out if a mobile really is all you need on the bike

London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, said: “The Mayor and I are committed to making cycling in London as safe and accessible as possible and have been working closely with Google. I’m delighted that Google Maps is enhancing the navigation system for cycling. 

“With existing digital journey planning data, cyclists haven’t always been able to see the best route available to them. These updated algorithms will help Londoners choose safer cycling routes, whether it is a road with less traffic or part of the Mayor’s growing network of Cycleways, enabling more people to get around by bike as we build a greener and better London for everyone.”

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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4 comments

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dave_bikes | 4 months ago
3 likes

The most important thing Google Maps could do to help cyclists is to route motorists away from bike routes when they give directions. 

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ChasP replied to dave_bikes | 4 months ago
1 like

Lowering the speed limits on residential roads would also encourage the algorithm to route other traffic down 'faster ' routes discouraging rat runs.

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chrisonabike replied to ChasP | 4 months ago
0 likes

Don't many - if not most - update and route per average or live traffic data though?

TBH if the rat running is in response to a change (like the 20mph change in Wales) although algorithms and data can update instantly, it probably needs time for drivers to adapt. Some traffic evaporation may take place on main routes as people re-time their journey, use different modes or just don't travel.

Human learning is slower than machine learning!

Rat-running drivers may be deterred by the difficulties of re-joining a queue elsewhere.

If after time this behaviour is still causing significant issues (eg. disruption to overall flow of traffic as drivers try to "push in", danger and unpleasantness on residential streets) the go-to is to restrict (one way narrowing) or block (modal filter) streets.

Yes - LTNs for the win!

Avatar
Jem PT | 4 months ago
0 likes

I use Komoot if I'm going somewhere unknown in London.

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