I’ve added a semi-secret Google switch to my bike map application that lets you compare MapQuest’s bike routing with Google’s bike directions.
To use it, enter your start and destination addresses like you normally do, then when you pull up the map, add “&google” to the end of the URL. MapQuest bike route appears in red; Google in blue. The Google option only works in the United States and Canada, and I don’t (yet) print Google’s text directions — I just provide the visual comparison. As before, MapQuest’s directions work for Canada, the US, Mexico, and Europe. It doesn’t work in Asia, South America, or Australia.
MapQuest’s route appears in red; Google’s in blue. Here’s an example from Gatineua, Quebec to Ottawa, Ontario.
You’ll recall that MapQuest gets bike facility information from OpenStreetMap. Where the bike facility information is fairly complete, I like MapQuest’s routing better than Google’s. Where it’s incomplete, the result is only as good as the data. If you know the bike facilities for your town, please join OpenStreetMap and add the data. OSM’s map editing tool is easy to use once you get the hang of it.
Since I created this bike route tool on Thanksgiving, I’ve added or corrected bike facility data for Longmont, CO; Fresno, CA; Gatineau, QC; Santa Cruz, CA; and San Francisco, CA. Ted pointed out a one-way street error that I fixed. Once I make the additions and corrections, it only takes a couple of days for MapQuest’s routing to make use of the new information. It’s very very cool to see it happen.
I’ve found a couple of shortcomings in MapQuest’s bicycling routing algorithm. First of all, MapQuest will not route on bridges that are marked as pedestrian bridges, even when they’re tagged as bicycle accessible. MapQuest acknowledged this as a bug and they’re working to fix it.
The other is more subtle, and I’m not even quite sure it’s an issue. MapQuest doesn’t seem to pay attention to designated and preferred bike routes — ncn, rcn, and lcn tags in OSM parlance. The preferred route for cyclists in Palo Alto is the Ellen Fletcher Bicycle Boulevard, for example, but MapQuest wants to send you across town on Alma Street, which is not favored at all by local cyclists. One possibility I need to look at: OSM doesn’t mark the cyclist cut throughs along Bryant. See, for example, this routing around Embarcadero Road if you’re familiar with the area.