TORONTO - Cycling enthusiasts across Canada will soon be able to turn to Google for help with their next urban bike expedition.

The online information giant announced Monday that it is introducing a Bike Directions feature to its popular Google Maps site, allowing users to highlight bike-friendly trails and roads across most major Canadian cities.

Google spokeswoman Wendy Rozeluk said the feature will be available countrywide, but more detailed route info will be available for nine major cities that shared their bike trail data with the company.

The cities are Ottawa, Gatineau, Que., Toronto, Waterloo, Ont. Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Kelowna, B.C..

Users in those cities will be able to flag designated bike trails and select roads that feature bike-only lanes, while Canadians elsewhere will only be shown routes with lighter traffic volumes.

The Bike Directions feature will be officially launched later this week, Rozeluk said.

Bike Directions, which has been available in the United States since March, uses colour coding to flag routes that are safe for cyclists.

A dark green line indicates a bike-only trail, while a light green line represents a dedicated bike lane along a road, Google said. Roads that are not designated biking areas but tend to be suitable for cycling are highlighted with a dotted green line, the company added.

Users also have the option of customizing routes to their preferences, such as finding short cuts or selecting routes that avoid hills.

Google encouraged users to take advantage of its reporting tool to suggest bike routes that should be included in the maps database.

The Association of Commuter Transportation of Canada praised Google for creating a tool that will promote green travel in Canadian urban centres.

"Easy access to information is a powerful resource for supporting and encouraging the choice of sustainable travel options," association chairman Lorenzo Mele said in a statement.

"The introduction of Google Bike routing in Canada will put cycling at the forefront of people's thoughts as they search out the optimum way to get to their destination."