How To: Plan a Trip Using Google Maps

I found some new features on Google Maps recently, so I thought I'd use a real-world example to demonstrate them. Last night I was going to leave work by biking to the light rail station, riding the light rail downtown, and then biking the rest of the way home. Before I left, though, I found out that there was a pre-season Vikings game last night. In case you didn't know, the train is packed full, and I mean really full, of drunken rednecks on the way to the Vikings game, and it's not pleasant for someone who's just trying to make his way home from a day of work. So, I thought this the perfect time to ride my bike all the way home, without any MetroTransit involved.

To get started, I put in my work and my home locations into the search box:

Google Maps Search Boxes

Here's what I got:

The Initial Search Results

It immediately gave me a nice looking map, but it's all on major freeways. I'm not going to bike on those! However, those smart guys at Google think of almost everything, and just about then I spotted a checkbox that said, "Avoid Highways". Once I checked that, I got something more like this:

Adjusting for Highways

Now that's good. I can do that. I quickly looked through the roads and made sure I was familiar with them and knew where I was going. There were a couple parts in the Richfield area that I wasn't sure if I'd ever been on, but I knew it was straightforward enough that it would work. I loved the idea of taking the frontage road along 77 and taking Park Ave. through south Minneapolis, because I knew they are not too highly trafficked and that most of Park Ave. has a nice bike lane. I knew that I wanted to stop at my mailbox downtown like I usually do on Thursdays, so I wanted to see a closer look at the downtown route.

Zooming In.  Look at the Note when you hover over the line!

I happened to hover over the route line and a friendly note popped up saying "Drag to change route". So, I clicked on the line and dragged it over to the mailbox place. The route and directions automatically readjusted.

Creating a trip stop.

However, I've had the experience of trying to bike down 7th St. S., and I know it's congested and leaves no room for bikes. Because of experience and consulting a map of downtown bike lanes, I decided that 9th St. S. was a much better option, with a nice, dedicated bike lane on the left side of the road. So, I just clicked on the route and dragged it off of 7th St. and voila!

Adjusting for Maximum Biking

However, this was not too helpful. I didn't want to make my trip more confusing by going off Park Ave. and biking around the Convention Center. Thankfully, I just clicked on the map again and made the map route me through Park Ave. and 9th St.

Readjusting the route to my liking.

Of course, since I was running late and missing dinner anyways, I decided to make another stop for dinner. (Besides, I wouldn't want to use the 3rd Ave./Central Ave. bridge because it's got very little room for biking on the sides. I usually take the Stone Arch Bridge, which it's sad this bike/walk trail isn't even shown on Google Maps.) So, I dragged the line up to Chipotle, of course.

Adding One Final Stop

Instead of zooming out, I just clicked on "Show All Directions" and it snapped back to the full view. Also, all the stopping points (and the stopping points I made to just make sure the route was to my liking) were reflected on the turn-by-turn directions.

The Final Product, including Detailed Directions.

It ended up being a great 12.6 mile bike ride, and it only took 65-70 minutes, if you don't count stopping to fill a tire with air, stopping at my mailbox, and eating some Chipotle. But it was a lot of fun, and it was almost an adventure. Thanks to Google Maps, though, it made the details of where to go really easy. (No, I didn't print them out and refer to them every couple miles or anything like that - I kept them in my head.)



Dan, We all know that you have a photographic memory! Way to go! By the way...I did a similar search the other day...before I read your blog. Yeah, it's great. MOM :)

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