Google has added cycling details to its popular Google maps online services to help those that use their bikes to move around.
A new "bicycling" layer has been added to Google Maps but it seems that the http://maps.google.com/maps?hq=http://maps.google.com/help/maps/directions/biking/mapplet.kml&ie=UTF8&ll=37.687624,-122.319717&spn=0.346132,0.727158&z=11&lci=bike&dirflg=b&f=d&utm_campaign=en&utm_medium=van&utm_source=en-van-na-us-gns-bd service is limited to the US for the time being with no dates set its availability outside the US.
This comes on top of existing direction services that show routes for walking, public transit and traveling by car as well as a (useful) one that calculates the safest route by avoiding all traffic.
Shannon Guymon, the product manager for Google Maps explained that Google "wanted to include as much bike trail data as possible, provide efficient routes, allow riders to customize their trip, make use of bike lanes, calculate rider-friendly routes that avoid big hills and customize the look of the map for cycling to encourage folks to hop on their bikes. So that's exactly what we've done."
Only 150 American cities - and around 12,000 miles of bicycle trail data - have been included in the first version of the service with more to come and it is likely that the service will be available on mobile platforms - including Android and others - later this year.
There's also a "biking directions" gadget that allows users to put the useful tools on their own websites to allow visitors to cycle to a particular location or find cycling routes in the area plus Google has also started a contest called "Share your ride" where users will be encouraged to Tweet and win a new bike using the hastag #bikewithgoogle.
Great initiative from Google to come up with such a free service. Obviously, the internet giant will be keen to get feedback from users and will be relying on data collected by thousands of cyclists in the US. Whether the service will come to the United Kingdom remains to be seen though.