MapQuest adds a bicycle option to the “Open” version of their online directions service.
Over the past year, MapQuest has embraced the OpenStreetMap in a big way, contributing money, time and software development to the project. They started a few open data initiatives of their own, including a MapQuest Open map service that uses OSM data.
On Thursday, MapQuest announced bicycle, pedestrian and transit directions everywhere around the world their directions service is available on MapQuest Open.
For bicycling, I like that there’s an option to specify how much you like hills (or not).
It’s important to remember the routing is based on user contributed street, road and bike facility data. While some small areas are reasonably complete, big swaths of the United States have incomplete data compared to much of Europe.
OSM also doesn’t have the 15,000 miles of bike path information that was compiled by volunteeers and then gifted to Google by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, so MapQuest’s directions will miss bike trails outside of areas with active OSM mapping enthusiasts. I asked Rails to Trails to contribute their collection of crowd-source map data to OSM as well. Their answer: “We’re thinking about it.”
This limited information leads to some frustration with MapQuest Open Directions failing to find directions. MapQuest’s Open name service is a little goofy sometimes too — when I want directions to Santa Cruz, for example, the map takes me to Santa Cruz County. Even when I specify Beach Street or Pacific Avenue, it asks me to choose between the street of that name in Santa Cruz or in Monterey County. (MapQuest’Open name service quirks is the reason I went with Google’s geocoding service when I created my bike routing application that otherwise uses MapQuest and OSM routing.)
Bike Directions in Oceania, Asia, Europe and Africa
Where MapQuest Open directions can shine is outside of North America. The directions service works for Australia and New Zealand, for example. New Zealand OSM data is perhaps less complete than that of the USA right now, but they have a very active effort in place now to convert government provide data into OSM.
I didn’t notice this until now, but MapQuest Open bike directions now even works for Asia and parts of Africa, including in the Russian Far East, Japan, South Korea, China (the PRC and the ROC), Afghanistan, South Africa and Egypt. It’s unable to calculate a route between Cairo and Tripoli, unfortunately, but if you want a route from Damascus to Tel Aviv, MapQuest is happy to oblige.
And tooting my own horn, this additional Asia coverage also works for my own mapping service, which uses MapQuest and OSM for it’s bicycle routing.
US Transit Routes
The other part of MapQuest’s announcement was the inclusion of transit directions for New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
For San Francisco, MapQuest has schedules and routes for SF Muni, BART, and Caltrain, and MapQuest is able to link all three systems together for a trip, for example, from San Jose Diridon to Union City BART using Caltrain, Muni N-Judah to Embarcadero Station, and BART to the East Bay.