Photo by jason.mcdermott on Flickr.

Google Maps has come very far since its inception, adding biking and walking directions, transit trip planning and more. Incorporating bikeshare information should be the next step.

Now that dozens of cities around the world have bicycle sharing systems, Google could work with bikeshare companies to get their stations on the map. Google could also let users get bikeshare directions, either as stand-alone trips or in combination with transit directions.

With this, transit directions could consider an optional transfer to bikeshare to start or complete a journey instead of a transfer to bus or rail. Since Google already has a good walking and cycling interface, it can map a walking route to a bikeshare station, a cycling route to another bikeshare station, and walking directions to the final destination.

Bike sharing companies would likely need to put their data in a common format with the key information like hours (or seasons) of operation, precise location, and perhaps station size. Interested companies would put the completed data in a publicly-accessible location and submit the URL to Google or, better yet, a public, common list of feeds like GTFS Data Exchange does for transit data.

Washington isn’t the only region that has a bike sharing system. With a common format and a software upgrade, Google could provide bikeshare directions to riders in Paris, London, Montreal, Minneapolis, or Barcelona. Any city that has a bikeshare system based on fixed stations could be included.

And with the feeds publicly accessible, other services like the open source OpenStreetMap and OpenTripPlanner, along with the many availability tracking tools, could build services that simultaneously serve all bike sharing systems.

Surely, there is a Google engineer with some 20% time for this. If you’re interested in encouraging Google to add bikeshare directions, you can add a note of encouragement to the Maps discussion page.

Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia.