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Could bikeshare directions come to Google?

Google Maps has come very far since its inception, adding biking and walking directions, transit trip planning and more. Incorporating bikeshare information should be the next step.

Photo by jason.mcdermott on Flickr.

Now that dozens of cities around the world have bicycle sharing systems, Google could work with bikeshare companies to get their stations on the map. Google could also let users get bikeshare directions, either as stand-alone trips or in combination with transit directions.

With this, transit directions could consider an optional transfer to bikeshare to start or complete a journey instead of a transfer to bus or rail. Since Google already has a good walking and cycling interface, it can map a walking route to a bikeshare station, a cycling route to another bikeshare station, and walking directions to the final destination.

Bike sharing companies would likely need to put their data in a common format with the key information like hours (or seasons) of operation, precise location, and perhaps station size. Interested companies would put the completed data in a publicly-accessible location and submit the URL to Google or, better yet, a public, common list of feeds like GTFS Data Exchange does for transit data.

Washington isn't the only region that has a bike sharing system. With a common format and a software upgrade, Google could provide bikeshare directions to riders in Paris, London, Montreal, Minneapolis, or Barcelona. Any city that has a bikeshare system based on fixed stations could be included.

And with the feeds publicly accessible, other services like the open source OpenStreetMap and OpenTripPlanner, along with the many availability tracking tools, could build services that simultaneously serve all bike sharing systems.

Surely, there is a Google engineer with some 20% time for this. If you're interested in encouraging Google to add bikeshare directions, you can add a note of encouragement to the Maps discussion page.

Michael Perkins serves on the Arlington County Transportation Commission, though the views expressed here are his own. He lives in Arlington with his wife and two children. 


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I _love_ this idea. Google also has the bike trail info. If there is directionality associated with the trails/lanes then they could be routed over.

by James on Jun 16, 2011 2:58 pm • linkreport

Seems to me like bikeshare could be integrated into the transit directions on google. Right now you can pick a selected mode and "bikeshare" could be one of those options. You would need a new format since it has to figure out that it needs biking directions between stations (and not a set route).

Bikeshare stations with their own logo (like BART stations have) would be a good start.

by MLD on Jun 16, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

Great idea. Nothing controversial here! ;)

by Lance on Jun 16, 2011 3:55 pm • linkreport

That last link goes to the Google forum where people get to request new features. It would probably help out if people go there and leave a note that they like this idea and want to see it happen.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 16, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

There is already some degree of common format, if not a standard. The following page was discussed on streetsblog ( in October, 2010 and coverage since has expanded (select different cities in a dropdown box toward the upper right above the map). It sounds like some bikeshare contractors don't open their data (, which suggests that any city contemplating such a service might want to require opening the data as part of the franchise/contract agreement with the provider.

by Ed Hillsman on Jun 17, 2011 8:34 am • linkreport

I think this is perfect for OpenStreetMap+OpenTripPlanner. I've been working with local mapping agencies to get trail and sidewalk data into OSM, and have been encouraged by a number of contributors adding and fixing trails in OSM. There are plans for Ride the City to start using OSM data as well, so the better the data in OSM the better it is for all data consumers. With OSM, we don't have to wait for Google to get around to doing this sort of thing, we can start now. If you know the location of a bikeshare location, either add it to OSM yourself using the amenity=bicycle_rental tag, or submit a bug report through

by Josh Doe on Jun 17, 2011 9:14 am • linkreport

We should talk... great idea - and one that we've been "working" on...

by Jason Meinzer on Jun 21, 2011 4:59 pm • linkreport

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