In February, Austin cyclist Peter Smith launched a website, Google Maps 'Bike There,' to promote a petition requesting that Google allow users to search for safe bicycle routes along with driving routes.
Mr. Smith asks that the feature take into account bicycle lanes from the area being mapped. The text of the petition says that such a feature would:
* Make bicycling safer for millions of bicyclists around the world.
* Empower world citizens to better adapt their lifestyles to face the challenges of global climate change.
* Help Google realize its core mission of "organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful."
Google Maps currently offers a "Take Public Transit" option for a number of cities in the United States and around the world (but not Boston, for some reason). Smith envisions that the link to "Bike There" would sit next to the transit link.
Google Maps already offers a check box for those who wish to avoid highways, but as Smith points out in his site's FAQ, the feature still directs drivers onto busy roads that are unpleasant for cyclists.
In recent months, Google has made a serious attempt to green its image. Last November, the search giant launched RE<C, an initiative to develop a renewable energy that is cheaper than coal. And at least some of Google's street-view cars, which drive around photographing city streets, are hybrids, as evidenced by this picture of one getting a ticket.
Smith's petition may be gaining some traction. In April, he wrote that the city of Austin is in "an ongoing effort" to provide bicycle directions on Google Maps. He wasn't able to get more information than that.
As of this posting, Smith's petition has gotten 35,795 signatures.