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In Google “Limelight” — Bike To Work Week, Google Bike Maps, & Taking Back Your Neighborhood

May 17th is National (US) Bike to Work Day, set aside to honor the holistic living practice of bicycling for transportation purposes. For open-air-loving bicyclists, it is the best idea since apple pie. If most of us who can do so show up on the roads, routes, lanes, streets, trails all over the country (or, better yet, the world), the traffic of oil-fed transit will have to become more familiar with the bicyclist.

The good news is that bicyclists are increasingly on the roads. Going to work, going to market, going to school, going to play, bikes are present on streets and bike lanes more than they have been in many decades. In fact, bicyclists are not going to fade away, but simply multiply every day.

Image Credit: cynthia

Image Credit: Cynthia

Google is actually going out of its way to highlight this coming Bike to Work Day in its monthly “In the Limelight” series. It recommends using Google Maps to plan bike trips (it includes biking directions in many cities). It also recommends that you explore the ways you can actively increase your greenness and soften your carbon footprint via the Google Green website.

As events such as Bike To Work day increase, through Google’s attention (and CleanTechnica‘s), bicyclists will have a more undeniable presence in the world. Being a bicyclist, I long to be safer, more noticeable, and less of a target to the driver who may not even see me on the road. If a driver is not a bicyclist, this is a major issue with safety. The problem of the bicyclist ‘blind-spot’ amongst drivers is largely due to their own lack of experience as bicyclists. Getting out there at least once a year and bicycling to work (or school or the store) can at least help with this issue.

Beyond Bike to Work Day, the whole month of May is actually National Bike Month. The activities taking places are increasing the opportunity to celebrate the bicycle and its many benefits. “All month long, Bike to Work Day activities are taking place in cities across the country,” Google Green’s Jeff Eisenberg writes. “Whether you’re an avid cyclist or a casual cruiser, biking can save you money, improve your health and help you explore your community. As an added benefit, biking is better for our environment, too.”

This is where Google comes through. Bicyclists and bike routes steadily increase, and change, validating growth and environmental presence. And Google is keeping up with that as much as possible. With Google maps, along with other bike route maps (one can not have too many maps!), we have more information about where to bike safely that ever before. I want to be safe when I bike from “here to there,” and a good mapped out plan really increases one’s ease in transit. Google Maps has biking directions and bike routes in over 200 US cities, Canada, Australia, and 14 other countries.

Just Google and seize the day!

Here is a great example opportunity and story from Google:

Today, we’re sitting down with Todd Scott, the Detroit Greenways Coordinator, who made cycling easier for his community. Using Google Map Maker, he’s built a comprehensive, accurate and accessible map of biking directions and routes in and around Detroit. Todd is helping build community and preserve the environment in an effort to transform the Motor City into “Cycle City.”

Detroit is the birthplace of the automotive revolution. What is the connection to bicycling? Active bicycling clubs began forming in Detroit in the 1890s, preceding the automotive revolution. These early bicyclists became the entrepreneurs, industrialists, race car drivers, salesman, and mechanics that led to Detroit becoming the Motor City. In many ways, we’re getting back to cycling — and for many reasons: improved health, being green, saving money, being social, and just having fun.

How did you come up with the idea to use Google Map Maker? I was at the 2010 National Bike Summit when Google first launched bicycling directions. I realized that in order for them to work well, we needed reliable map data that made it easy for people to discover bicycle friendly roads and trails. Google Map Maker lets me do that.

What do you consider the key benefit of promoting cycling in your city? There are so many benefits to cycling in Detroit that it’s tough to choose just one. However, I hear from residents and visitors alike that they see a different Detroit on a bike than they do in a car. A ride from the abandoned Michigan Central Station to the Ford Rouge Plant is pretty amazing. This takes you through the heart of Southwest Detroit with many great restaurants, bakeries, murals, parks, etc. On a bike, it’s so much easier to stop and appreciate the sights, sounds, and smells of these neighborhoods.

What are other ways in which your city supports cycling? The city of Detroit has lost nearly two-thirds of its population over the last half-century. That means our roads have very little vehicle traffic and are very bike friendly. Still, we’re focused on adding more trails and bike lanes in the city. This year we’re adding 100 miles of bike lanes and expanding some of the city’s most popular trails.

What does being green mean to you? For me it’s core to my decision making process. I do try to bike and walk to work, the grocery store, the bank, and other local businesses. Sometimes this lifestyle is trumped by other factors. I do turn up the thermostat in the winter when my girlfriend visits.

You can find local bike trails and routes using Google Maps biking directions and start enjoying a healthier, greener lifestyle today!

If you’re in the DC area, there’s a Bike to Work Day webpage here. And there are many others created for cities around the country — see if there’s one for yours!

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Written By

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)


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