Tech giant Google knows a lot of things: where you live, what you search for, what you’re buying, and what keeps you up at night. That knowledge is informed by a number of its products – like Google Search, or Google Chrome, or Google Home – and it’s also informed by Google Maps, the world’s leading mapping app.
But despite any concern you might have about big tech creeping insidiously into individual lives, there are some fascinating insights that can be gleaned from the big picture. Google has unmatched scale, and is uniquely capable of providing a broad strokes picture of what the world’s up to.
And today, thanks to Google Maps, they’ve done just that for cycling.
Maps was first rolled out in 2005, and began adding cycling-specific functionality from 2010. Over the years since, those features have received a number of updates – such as the addition of elevation profiles in 2017 – in a bid to make the app more appealing for cyclists of all persuasions. Specific cycling directions are currently available in more than 30 countries1.
Because of Google’s immense reach and the market penetration of its Maps app, any data Google provides is backed by billions of journeys from an app that has had more than five billion global downloads. Cyclists are, of course, just a fraction of that whole, but we’re still talking an enormous amount of data.
Last year, there was a massive COVID-induced bike boom…