Google bike layer worldwide

Google Maps bicycle layer is available world wide. Sometimes you can even route using it.

Google Maps users in the United States and Canada who click “bicycle directions” on the map have seen the green lines that mark cycleways, bike lanes, and bike routes. These green lines are the “bicycle layer” in Google Maps. Here’s the bicycle layer for Santa Cruz, California.

Google Maps bicycle layer Santa Cruz

Anybody who uses the Google Maps API to write their own map application can enable this bicycle layer for custom maps worldwide. In most places outside of the USA and Canada, the resulting map is uninteresting, but occasionally you might see those green lines in some unusual places. Take, for example, Colombo, Sri Lanka, which shows a handful of bike lanes and cycleways (click on the “Google Bike Layer” button to show the bike layer after you click through the link):

Colombo Sri Lanka bike path

I did some investigation and discovered Google has their own crowd sourced mapping project: Google Map Maker. This project allows users to contribute map data for certain regions for which accurate map data is not commercially available. For those regions, you can add pedestrian/bicycle overpasses and underpasses, walkways and trails. Roads can be marked as ‘preferred bike routes’ and tagged with bike lanes. Once those user changes are accepted by Google, all of those bike facilities appear in the bike layer.

Google won’t generate bicycle routing directions outside of the United States and Canada, but for areas where walking directions are given, Google will use those paths it knows about from the user contributed Map Maker data. If you try my example in Sri Lanka, click the “Google Directions” button and you’ll see Google will route you across that trail.

Google says users will be able to contribute USA bike path data through Map Maker as well when Map Maker becomes enabled for the United States.

I might run a contest for whoever can find the most bike paths outside of the USA and Canada; I’ll give it some thought, so stay tuned.