With more and more people using pedals and two wheels to get around their cities, HERE has launched a beta test of bike routing on Android, offering cyclists the ability to better plan and streamline their journeys.
We spoke with HERE’s product manager Ivo Viira who told us more about the beta test, what it means for cyclists, and what we can expect in the future.
Ivo says, “Bike routing has been a talking point within our team for many years; it’s a big project, and one we are just getting started with.”
Early testing of the beta is required to meet certain user needs, according to Ivo: “We are eager to understand the reaction of our Android beta community – what they like, what they don’t, what they expect – and incorporate this into the product.”
How bike routing works
The current version of the beta allows users to select the option of bike routing, and be shown arrival times and a selection of potential routes based on the driving routes and pedestrian pathways. With the test still in its early stages, developers at HERE are continuing to collect data to establish routes suitable for cycling and offer guidance, with the aim to enable cyclists to attach their device to the handlebars and get going, using HERE Maps.
Bicycle routes will be displayed alongside the existing transport options on HERE Maps taking into account the different obstacles that could impact each mode of transport and sharing information on route times. This information will appear in the tabular route planner, which will offer people a clear, easy way to compare all route options.
Optimising the user experience
While the maps do not currently show dedicated bicycle lanes, these will also be included in a later version of the feature. Ivo tells us more about the development of bike routing: “We continuously improve our maps and we have the capabilities to accurately identify bicycle lanes many cities in the world now come equipped with.”
The routing team at HERE will analyse road data and determine which are the appropriate routes for cyclists, and which are the ones that are best avoided. “We identify whether bike lanes are protected from car traffic for more safety. Our traffic engine tells us which roads are congested and therefore expose you to high levels of pollution.”
Ivo adds, “We also need to look at how your actions affect the route, which is very different in cycling than with driving or walking. Everything, from the way you move across roads and pavements, to the way you approach junctions is different when riding a bike.”
“Addressing this requires a great deal of testing how the maps actually behave when you’re cycling. All the functionality we offer needs to be tweaked to improve the quality of the routes offered, which is very time consuming.”
“We want to include more contextual information, for example – the weather’s good, why not ride your bike?” Ivo adds, “We also want to offer the ability to choose many different routes, while offering an explanation as to why some routes are better than others, like if one road has a tough hill to climb. We want to offer as many options for cyclists as possible, provide them with all the information, and then let them make their own minds up.”
Ivo is well aware that the work on bike routing is in constant progress, so long as people are using them and offering feedback. He says, “We will always be updating these maps, whether it’s integrating weather forecasts, or information on which roads will be worst affected by rain.”
“The bicycle is incredibly mobile so our routing needs to be constantly up-to-date and responsive so that users who hit a dead end can quickly turn around and find another way. The possibilities to improve the cycling experience are endless, and we want to play a part in this.”
The beta test for bike routing on Android is available today. What would you like to see in bike routing from HERE? Let us know in the comments below.