Google Maps Now Sports Walking Directions

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-07-22 Print this article Print

Though I use Google Maps frequently, I don't pay it a whole lot of attention to it in Google Watch because I, like so many others, have come to take it for granted as a utility just like the phone book or any old directory.

Well, today this old directory Google Maps got a jolt of fresh blood with the beta of Walking Directions. And I'm excited about it. We all know driving and walking in cities can be two different experiences.

As Google Maps Software Engineer Andrew Schwerin pointed out in his post about this new beta feature, "city centers are always a maze of one-way streets and no-left-turns," so driving directions and walking directions can be different.

Well, I happen to have arrived in San Francisco today, July 22, to attend the Facebook F8 conference tomorrow at the San Francisco Design Center Concourse. Moscone Center is old hat to me, but I have no clue where this concourse is and frankly haven't trod down 8th St. much.

So, I Google Mapped directions from my hotel, which is on Fulton St., to 635 8th St., the address of the Design Center Concourse.

These are the directions I got when I entered my starting address and destination and selected driving directions.


1.    Head east on Fulton St toward Franklin St 157 ft
2.    Turn left at Franklin St. 0.1 mi
3.    Turn right at Golden Gate Ave 0.4 mi
4.    Turn right at Hyde St 0.2 mi
5.    Continue on 8th St.

That's a total of 1.5 miles. There's no gym here and I need the exercise, so I'm walking this route tomorrow afternoon.

Then I selected the Walking Beta directions option and got these results:


1.    Head east on Fulton St toward Franklin St 157 ft
2.    Turn right at Franklin St 0.1 mi
3.    Turn left at Hayes St 0.3 mi
4.    Slight left at Market St 479 ft
5.    Turn right at 8th St 0.8 mi

The walk is listed as a total of 1.3 miles, or about 30 minutes. I bet I can do it in 25 at a brisk pace tomorrow.

You can see the difference. Why is that? Well, clearly I can't go left on Hayes driving in a car because Franklin is a one-way street. But I can walk left on Franklin and hang a left on Hayes to get to Market St. At .02 miles less, the walking route is more direct. I don't have to touch Golden Gate.

But I wouldn't have known that using the Google Maps driving directions, and if I was afraid of getting lost, I'd have followed the driving directions to the letter and walked an extra .02 mile.

Hey, walking extra isn't a bad thing, but what if I were pressed for time? Then the extra 5 to 7 minutes of walking time would matter.

Again, not a big issue, but it is another example of how Google is making lives easier through the dissemination of more valuable information..

Also, this is just a beta, so don't expect perfection. As Schwerin pointed out:

Walking directions work well for short trips in urban areas, but we don't always know if a street has a sidewalk, or if there's actually a special pedestrian bridge for crossing a busy street. There are still a lot of pedestrian pathways we don't know about, and they might save you some time if you find them. We're working on collecting new data on pedestrian pathways and on more effective ways to solicit your feedback, so that we can steadily improve this feature and get you where you need to be as efficiently as possible.

The Walking feature is also good up to 6.2 miles, or 10 kilometers. I urge everyone out there to get walking and test this feature. And it probably wouldn't hurt to advise Google of those pedestrian pathways to enrich the feature.

I'll be keeping my eyes out for these as I walk the San Fran streets. |

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