Bing Maps vs Google Maps

I find neither Google Maps or Bing Maps work particularly well and they each have annoyancies causing me to switch between them, depending on what I’m trying to achieve.

And what am I trying to achieve? What do I use Google/Bing Maps for?

  • plotting a route

That’s a little too overly simplified, so let me explain further:

  • I travel by bicycle and therefore my route between two points can be different to that being done by a car; I might prefer or need to avoid certain roads, a more direct route might be quicker by bike, but take longer by car (due to the nature/speed limit of the road, I might want to avoid certain hills, or I might want to take a slight detour to visit a particular sight.
  • I travel a lot for work, so I might need to plot a route to someone’s house. I would then take screenshots of important parts of the route and print them off to take with me (this works out cheaper than buying a Satnav, and I much prefer a paper map). (I don’t have a smart-phone).
  • Sometimes I will plot a route after I return from a trip to see exactly where I went, maybe to see how many miles I did, and maybe to see where I took a wrong turn or which route I could have taken instead (for future reference).

Here’s where Google and Bing fall down in various ways:

  • Google is better suited to cyclists; you can specify ‘by bike’ as your chosen form of transport and it will plot a route better suited to that. It can also show you an illustration of the hills along the way.

  • Google can also show routes suited to walkers but I’m not convinced this works all that well, and Bing includes Ordinance Survey Maps which include public footpaths which Google Maps doesn’t seem to/always take into account; not that I use either for walking, these are just things I’ve noticed. Bing also has a walkers option, but not one for cyclists.
With Bing Maps I have to drag my route to the A5/Menai Bridge.
  • When plotting a route, and adding specific points along the way (such as sights I might have (wanted to) detour(ed) to, both Mapping services can have their issues but Bing is particularly bad, especially when it comes to routes better suited to a cyclist. Google Maps has an undo option, or it used to, you can click on a point to remove it; you can’t do this with Bing.

For example, there are two bridges that link Anglesey with the mainland, one of these is the Britannia Bridge on the A55 which is mostly dual carriageway with a speed limit of 70mph, and the other is the narrower and slower (and pedestrian-friendly) Menai Bridge, which I would always take on a bike. Bing Maps will not only default my route off Anglesey across the A55, but if I try and drag my route to the A5 it gets itself all in a mess and will usually send me round in a circle and still manage to include the A55 in the ordeal. To add further to this annoyance, if I happen to let go of my mouse’s button and ‘accept’ that route, it’s neigh-on impossible to undo it in Bing Maps and I’m forced to begin plotting my route all over again (extra annoying if I’ve already placed a number of other points); Google Maps (especially due to it’s cyclist-friendly option) is better well behaved in this regard (although I usually have to tell it numerous times that I want to use the A5 at various points instead of the A55; although this is more likely to happen if I’ve left the car option selected) and Google’s Undo option is a blessing when route-plotting goes wrong (even if it doesn’t always work the way you want).

  • Bing Maps (and Bing in general) quite often assumes a location in the United States; which is bizarre when that is so far away.
  • Where both Maps fall down, but where I prefer Bing, is their presentation. I find the colour contrast is a challenge on the eyes; white roads on a pale background is not only difficult to see on the screen, it seems worse when printing. Whoever came up with the colour palettes should be fired. I’ve tried to find a quick method to improve the clarity before printing, but have not been successful. Bing Maps are just that bit clearer and is why I generally turn to it for printing a route. Both mapping services do something annoyingly silly though (and I can’t understand why they haven’t addressed it, or even realised it) and that is when plotting a route on the map, the route with overlay the road… and all the roads’ names. Therefore, when you come to follow the route from a printout, it can be a challenge to find the correct road name. To work around this I often write in the road names where I think I’ll need to know them (but it’s a bugger when you arrive somewhere and need to know a road name and discover you can’t read it on the map!)
  • Another thing the plotted route does is fail to make junctions clear (this is made more of a problem because the obliteration of road names); the plotted route just winds its way along, turning this way and that, without any indication when it swaps from one road to another at a junction; in reality the road you’re on might sweep off to the left or right, while a joining road is straight ahead.
  • Google Streetview is a great feature.

What are your Google and Bing Maps experiences like?

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4 comments

  1. I can see smartphones can be useful walking in unfamiliar towns and you get maps and arrows showing which way to turn, but not wanting to trade off geographical understanding for convenience, I prefer maps too. As regards smartphones, I might have to relent when my ancient mobile gives up.

  2. When I’m traveling (locally) to someplace new I’ll actually drive it using google streeview. Jump in for intersections, jump back out to gain distance. By the time I’m done streeview driving, I’ve memorized the way.

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