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I have a need to figure out elevation gain on a (United States) freeway (to compare options) to plan a cycling route. Google will NOT allow me to drag the points into the freeway route if cycling is the transportation method. If I switch it to a driving route, Google will not give elevation gain stats.

It appears that if a route is not recommended for cycling, Google will not let you route it (which I realize could be hazardous otherwise). IMO, it should only give a warning and let users make their desired route.

Anyhow, is there a way out there to get elevation gain stats on road/routes not recommended for cycling?

After some thought I feel strongly that this question is in the correct context here. True it’s a question also about software, but I doubt the software user base has as much to offer it as cyclists do.

Whether or not it’s legal or safe is a bit irrelevant. Google’s safety and legal limitations are just examples of why I might need such a feature. And we know that software, the law, and road and highway planning aren’t perfect. For the purpose of just finding out if such a feature exists somewhere on this planet, we’ll say I’m using my best judgements about safety, and would not do something I felt was a risk for myself or others. Safety is another primary goal in using our own judgement for considering all possible routes. The law may in some cases be wrong, or many not regard changing conditions such as weather or road construction, and direct us through a more dangerous route. Also, say we’re out on the road and there’s some sort of emergency; elevation may become a critical consideration in finding the best way home.

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    Your title says "not recommended" for cycling, but then you mention a freeway. Is it even legal to cycle there? I no longer use Google maps for route planning but (local errors aside) have always been able to drag onto unwise roads – Chris H Apr 14 at 19:33
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    Also, Google maps is rubbish for elevation. This old question of mine discusses alternatives. My own answer, while a little dated, may be of some use. – Chris H Apr 14 at 19:39
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    The URL ridewithgps.com route planner can be set to driving mode which will route on freeways/interstate and show elevation. It appears to use Google mapping service. – P. Barney Apr 14 at 23:35
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    Consider that you're asking about software, which has only a slight connection with bicycles. I'd suggest that softwarerecs.stackexchange.com is a better home for this question. – Criggie Apr 15 at 0:28
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    @P.BarneyRWGPS uses Google's routing if you're displaying Google's maps in it. I don't use it often but when I do, I use OSM, and that uses a different routing engine (there are few for OSM, and I'm not sure which) – Chris H Apr 15 at 7:55
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I highly recommend https://brouter.de/brouter-web for bicycle route planning. It also calculates elevation gain/loss and tries to avoid elevation changes.

Keep in mind that elevation data can be inaccurate since it’s usually using Digital Elevation Models which are based on satellite data. For example it might miss things like bridges entirely and display a huge elevation gain/loss for crossing a gorge. See https://brouter.de/brouter/elevation.html

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  • Does it allow you to route along roads marked as unsuitable though? – Chris H Apr 15 at 12:44
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    @ChrisH: You can completely customize the criteria/rules, so yes. – Michael Apr 15 at 15:12
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It's possible to get an estimate (rough, but quite possibly better than Google's) using Strava route builder in manual mode. I've checked against a local motorway (where cycling is illegal and would be very dangerous) and figures are not unreasonable. You'll need a (free) login. What you need to do:

  • without enabling manual mode, click on your start point
  • click on the normal road at the freeway junction
  • adjust the route to the freeway as you like
  • enable manual mode and click OK to the warning
  • click points on the freeway, ending where you want to leave it. The route won't follow the road, so curves may need a few points to define them properly
  • turn manual mode back off and click on your destination
  • adjust the route from the freeway to the destination
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