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Gary Beaton, who heads a Calgary cycling group, says the feature will be useful to people biking in an unfamiliar city. ((John Spittal/CBC))

Bike routes will soon be available on Google Maps for Edmonton and Calgary.

The internet search giant announced last week a bike route planning tool would be rolled out in nine cities across the country, the first time Google Maps Bike Directions will be available in Canada.

Gary Beaton, the head of a Calgary cycling group called Tour du Nuit Society, said the tool will be useful for people who don't have a regular route or who are newcomers to a city.

"I've seen the U.S. version — it was rolled out with much fanfare, Google being in Silicon Valley where everybody cycles to work and it's the cool thing to do — so of course they came out with a bike app," he said.

"If you're new to a strange town … and you've taken your bike … then you would use it."

The biking directions integrate with the other Google Maps features, allowing users to find a local business, read reviews, get biking directions and use Google Street View to preview the route.

The bicycle tool has a colour-coded feature that indicates whether a route is bike-only, a dedicated bike lane along a road or a road without a bike lane that is suitable for biking.

However, Bob Grunwald at Bow Cycle in Bowness worries cyclists accessing bike routes on cellphones and smartphones might be distracted.

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Cyclists in Edmonton and Calgary will soon be able to use Google Maps to plot their routes. ((CBC))

"Do you want someone really to be looking down … for an extended period of time, [not]

seeing where they're going?" he said.

"It's always good to know your route and have little reminders, but not figuring it out as you're going."

It's expected the bike route tool will be available in Calgary and Edmonton by the end of next week. Google is also introducing the bike feature in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Gatineau, Que., and Waterloo, Ont.

Riders are encouraged to use Google's reporting tool to send feedback and route information.