Enhancements to cycling navigation in Google Maps are set to benefit millions of Londoners, following a collaboration between Google and Transport for London (TfL). Informed by TfL insights, Google has updated their algorithms to prioritise cycling on safer, quieter roads and make them easier to discover within Google Maps.
According to TfL, the update will help to make cycle journeys in the capital even safer and more comfortable for everyone who uses the app to navigate journeys in London. In July 2022, TfL hosted an innovation summit to understand some of the key problems for people cycling and to work out how to improve them. The cycling community highlighted that some of the key barriers to cycling include the need for travel planning tools to include up-to-date data. TfL and the boroughs have delivered more than 340 kilometres of cycle routes in London, however existing digital journey planners do not always take these into account and therefore do not always provide the best route for cycling.
Since the summit, Google has worked with TfL’s Open Innovation team and TfL’s industry-leading experts to help solve some of the problems presented and ultimately improve cycle routing in Google Maps. This new collaboration approach has allowed TfL to provide pre-launch feedback on product enhancements and means TfL can continue to feedback as the product develops further.
To complement the changes made for safer cycle route choices, Google Maps is also in the process of rolling out new additional features to improve cycling in the capital. Users will be able to see the detailed breakdown of the route itself so at a glance they will see what type of road they’ll be cycling on, for example, if it’s a major road or a segregated cycle lane.
Google has also announced Immersive View for cycle routes on Google Maps, which lets users preview routes in advance, including all the cycle lanes, and junctions along the journey. This feature will begin rolling out this year in London and other select cities around the world. TfL will continue to work with Google Maps to refine the cycling routing experience during the roll out. People can also use the ”Send Feedback” option in Google Maps if they spot any routes that have better alternatives.
London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, said: “The Mayor and I are committed to making cycling in London as safe and accessible as possible and have been working closely with Google. I’m delighted that Google Maps is enhancing the navigation system for cycling.
“With existing digital journey planning data, cyclists haven’t always been able to see the best route available to them. These updated algorithms will help Londoners choose safer cycling routes, whether it is a road with less traffic or part of the Mayor’s growing network of Cycleways, enabling more people to get around by bike as we build a greener and better London for everyone.”
Hannah Fallows, Open Innovation Partnerships Manager at TfL, said: “Our collaboration with Google is a fantastic way of using our shared expertise to make active journeys easier for everyone. The improvements to digital wayfinding through navigation apps like Google Maps give cyclists confidence about the journey they are about to undertake, especially is it’s not a regular route. This is a really exciting development to which that helps Londoners to discover the brilliant cycleways network across our city and will make cycling in London safer and more enjoyable for all.”
Ajay Arora, UK Partnerships Lead at Google Maps, said: “To help make cycling easier for more people, we’ve been working with local governments to ensure Google Maps shows up to date cycling routes. We are delighted to collaborate with organisations like Transport for London to add hundreds of kilometres of new cycle lane data.
“Thanks to the collaboration with TfL we’ve been able to prioritise cycling on safer, quieter roads, and these updates are now available to cities around the world. In total, these changes are improving the journeys of more than 60 million people who come to Maps every month for cycling directions.”
Since April 2022, TfL and boroughs have delivered 49km of new or upgraded cycle routes and there are plans to open at least another 12.3km by March 2024, with the support of boroughs. TfL has so far reduced danger at 44 junctions across London as part of its Safer Junctions programme, with work on at a further two locations set to start early next year.