google vs. strava cycling routing

This weekend I went cycling on an over-night trip to Napa from San Francisco. We know the roads for about 50mi around us well, but were in somewhat unfamiliar terrain that far northeast of home.

We used Google Maps cycling directions to figure out a way home from Napa on the 2nd day. While the big G is the undisputed king of automobile routing, its shortcomings in suggesting safe, cyclist friendly roads became instantly clear. The route shown was given to us via CA-37, a 65mph speed limit highway, which while technically legal for bikes, was highly questionable to ride on.

A particularly insane stretch is shown below the street view of a bridge that we crossed as quickly as possible – hoping that oncoming cars gave us some space since the shoulder was all of one foot.

Google routing from Napa to Corte Madera via a highway

Google routing from Napa to Corte Madera via a highway

CA-37

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.115983,-122.504986,3a,75y,47.11h,63.06t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sM5w3kpYek5KNwD27Yufoug!2e0

Here’s the same start and end points, but using Strava’s Route Builder. Deep red lines indicate the most popular roads taken by cyclists, while those without any color have never been traveled.

Strava routing from Napa to Corte Madera

Strava routing from Napa to Corte Madera

Coming out of Napa, we should have headed west to Petaluma along wine country roads. The route takes us south to Nicasio and on towards Marin County.

 

Petaluma road

 

Strava’s routing system is still in beta but improving every month. Every ride and run added to the platform is an additional “vote” that the algorithm uses to suggest safer and more scenic rides. Head over to http://www.strava.com/athlete/routes and try it!