Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beating Google to the punch

Well, after commenting on how Google Maps could improve their "cycling directions" function - which is limited only to the USA right now - I discover that it's already been done. I suppose it's just that Google is rapidly becoming a one-stop shop for all wisdom on The Internets, so people are less likely to automatically turn to a site like Ride The City (a New-York-based site: hooray, New York.) But here's a site that maps cycling routes around specific cities, with options for direct, safer, and safest routes, and that takes advice from cyclists to improve its routes. And it includes, well, one Canadian city so far, namely and unsurprisingly Toronto.

And hey, you don't go to the one-stop-shop for your bike gear, do you? At least, I usually don't stop at the Wal-Mart for new tires.

On a quick glance, I have a couple of wishes: for one thing, I'd want the ability to scan and pan the map, in essence the ability to grab the map and move it left or right, up or down, so I can track streets on a closer level. As it is, you have the option to zoom in, or zoom out, but not a lot of flexibility about how to view the map. But it's a start. And it does let you rate the routes and give feedback, something I would like to think a lot of cyclists will jump at. (Hey, we're always happy to share our hard-earned wisdom, right?) And for another thing... gosh it would be nice if Ottawa was covered! Who do I write to petition for this? Ah well, I can be patient... they only cover 8 cities so far anyway, I'm sure Ottawa's somewhere on their list of priorities, but I wouldn't bet on it being up near the top.

But I like the option to enter your start and destination manually or to simply drag and drop the bike and stop sign icons to where you want to go: saves needing to know exact directions. I like that you can drag and drop those icons from either their spaces at the left by the entry fields, or the little box at top right, too.

It also has some neat widgets already installed: like the ability to embed it in your website. Now that I would find useful if Ride The City included Ottawa. I would absolutely include an embedded Ride the City map on the Writers Festival website: we try to give people a lot of options other than driving to get to our venues after all, so how better than to give them cycling directions (and the location of the nearest BIXI stand if they're from out of town.)

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