Just in time for spring, there's a new high-tech tool to help make bicycling easier, safer and more fun.
Google Inc. is adding a bike lane with its latest online mapping option.
The new bicycling directions available on Google Maps starting Wednesday supplement the guidance already provided to drivers and pedestrians. The biking directions initially will be available only for the United States.
Google spent the past six months tweaking its mapping service so it could recommend routes that would steer bicyclists away from big hills and heavily congested streets. The feature can be used to pinpoint 12,000 miles of bicycling trails in more than 150 cities.
Engineers at the company partnered with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit working to create a nationwide network of biking trails from former rail lines, to come up with the system.
Bike directions already have been available on some smaller Web sites, but Google is the first major Internet mapping service provider to add the option.
Google's mapping service already is the most popular in the U.S., with more than 55 million visitors in February, according to comScore. MapQuest, owned by AOL Inc., ranked second with more than 36 million visitors.