How to Use Google Maps Cycling Directions

Find the best bicycling routes and modify them to suit your needs

Male cycle messenger checking directions on smartphone
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You're probably familiar with Google Maps for finding driving directions to locations, but Google Maps also accommodates bicyclists with special directions and customizable routes. Google spent years compiling information about bike lanes and paths to determine bike-friendly street routes for its cycling directions service.

Selecting a Bicycle-Friendly Route in Google Maps

You can access turn-by-turn directions for cyclists by visiting Google Maps in your computer browser.

  • Click on a location on the map or enter a destination in the Search field to open the destination panel.
  • Enter your current location and click the "Directions" button.  
  • Select "Cycling" as your mode of transportation from the icons at the top of the screen. Other options include travel by car, public transit and walking.

Google Maps presents you with a map showing the route and any suggested alternate routes along with a set of directions that avoids divided highways and roads that do not permit bicyclists. To select an alternate route, just tap on it. The route(s) include the distance and estimated cycling time along with a comment on whether the route is relatively flat or tends to be hilly. After you choose the route, click the phone icon in the destination panel to send the directions to your phone for turn-by-turn directions as you travel, or print out the directions by tapping the print icon.

This approach gives you a bicycle-friendly route, but for more detailed information on routes that are available for cyclists, Google Maps provides a specialized map.

How to View Bicycle-Friendly Roads and Paths in Google Maps

Google Maps offers specialized maps just for cyclists. Some users complain that it is more difficult to view bicycle paths in the current Google Maps than in previous versions.

They are there, but you have to know where to look. Begin with Google Maps open and with nothing entered into the search field. Click the "More" icon at the left side of the empty search field to open a panel with map options. Click on "Bicycling" to bring up a map marked up specifically for cyclists. This map has several features you won't find on most Google Maps.

  • Bike trails are indicated by dark green lines and do not permit motor vehicles.
  • Streets with dedicated cycling lanes are indicated by light green lines.
  • Bicycle-friendly roads without dedicated lanes are indicated by dashed light green lines
  • Dirt or unpaved trails are indicated by brown lines.

When you have the cycling map feature turned on, enter a destination and your current location in the destination panel. Click "Directions." You may be offered several suggested bike routes. You can drag-and-drop the route line to avoid an area or to include a more scenic or pleasant option based on your experience. From there, you choose the route as usual, confident that you have a bike-friendly path identified. The bicycling view is also handy for locating bike lanes and trails you weren't aware of in your neighborhood. 

Tip: You may need to enlarge the map to see the bike path indicators after the route is marked with the thick blue line.

Bicycle-Friendly Routes in the Google Maps App

Customized maps for cyclists are also available on the Google Maps mobile apps. Access them from the "More" icon to the left of the empty search field in the Google Maps app and select "Biking" to turn on the special cycling features.