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Google Rolls Out Biking Directions

After a fun filled weekend of jazz listening, beer drinking, and top of the lung screaming for your favorite Spandex wearing Twilight Criterium cyclist, you may have come down with a severe case of Bike Fever. Symptoms of Bike Fever include slipping into profound self-questioning moments about why you are currently not on a bike, scanning Craigslist for the cheapest bike in the Athens area, and making premature commitments to compete in next year’s race.

If you have identified with at least one out of these three warning signs of Bike Fever, you may need to consult your favorite technological navigator, Google, to help you turn this feverish state into a year long quest for Twilight greatness. (Or maybe a leisurely ride for the less infected.)

Google has recently made it possible for all of us to turn these cycle-envy dreams into an everyday reality by introducing the latest feature to Google Maps: Biking Directions.

Teaming up with the Rails-to-Trails Conservatory (RTC), a nonprofit organization based in Washington DC whose mission it is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines, Google Maps now offers access to over 12,000 bike trails and directions in more than 150 cities across America (Athens included).

How exactly does this work?

Google's partnership with Rails-to-Trails has given Google Maps developers the means to establish an algorithm which utilizes RTC's trail knowledge. These Google geniuses have come up with a formula that leads cyclists away from busy intersections whenever possible and places them on these traffic-free trails.

The corporate gurus have also anticipated our horizontal desire to avoid any road with a hill. Based on a physical model of the amount of power our bodies have to exert given the slope of a hill, along with assuming the average values for mass and wind resistance, the sweat sparing Google virtuoso's designed the Biking Directions feature of Google Maps to anticipate the speed required to climb these hills, and pleasantly avoid them at all costs.

But what if I want to go up the hills?

For you customizable anarchists who die by the "My way or the highway" expression, Google gives you the option to select parts of the suggested bike route to personalize your ride. For example, if you want to bike past the UGA Arch on the way to work, you can easily manipulate the proposed bike path simply by clicking and dragging the route to include Broad Street. The path will then roll you past your favorite pillars of wisdom, justice, and moderation on your way to the office.

What exactly do the directions look like?

The directions appear three different eco-friendly looks: dark green, light green, and dotted green.

Dark Green - When you see the solid, dark green trail in your biking directions, you have found a path dedicated to bikers only. Dark Green. Bike Clean. Picnics optional.

Light Green - The lighter green image of the biking directions signals the presence of a bike lane along the road. Remember, Light means Slight [risk]. Helmets on please.

Dotted Green - A dotted green path illuminates a pathway which indicates roads without bike lanes which are more suitable for cycling. Dotted Green Can Be Mean. Know your road signals and wear your helmet!

So make sure you check with bike doctor Google before getting involved with any biking regiment. Who knows? It just might be the nudge you need to pedal forward your future Twilight aspirations.

Try it out for yourself at http://maps.google.com/biking.

Originally published on Sunday, April 25th in the Athens Banner-Herald, boxkite.net, and informitivechris.blogspot.com.

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