When Google Maps first launched, it was nothing more than a simple driving directions tool to compete with the other mapping sites that existed. Over time they added a huge pile of features like walking directions, public transit directions, and street view to help people who need more than just simple driving directions. Today Google announced that bike riders now have the ability to map out bicycling directions on Google Maps. At first glance this might seem like a silly feature, but given the number of bicycle-friendly routes that a rider has to learn before going on a trip, Google’s solution can certainly come in handy.

Besides giving step-by-step directions and estimation of travel time, there is also new layer that shows bike trails, bike lanes, and bike-friendly roads. When enabling this layer there are different colored lines that indicate which roads and trails are good for biking. When using the directions feature, Google will try to automatically optimize the route best suited for biking. Of course they warn that roads that aren’t marked in the new cycling layer should be used with caution, and recommends users report ones that shouldn’t be used.

Cyclists everywhere will be happy to hear about this new feature, however at present time the new feature can only be used on the Google Maps website. This means users of the smartphone version are going to have to wait for an update to be released. It seems kind of silly that they didn’t add the feature to the phone version first, considering the importance of finding directions based on a GPS location. Ever since I got a phone with Google Maps built in I find myself using the actual website a lot less. Maybe Google decided to roll out bicycling directions to their website first since they label it as a “beta” feature. Mobile users will hopefully get the love soon, until then cyclists will have to use the old fashioned way.