It's summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and when it's not too hot, it feels like a waste of gorgeous weather to get behind the wheel or hop in a cab. Doubly so when you're traveling to a city you'd love to explore, and you're pretty sure that you could walk from your hotel to the aquarium, if only you could figure out the way. You could try to use driving directions from Google Maps, but city centers are always a maze of one-way streets and no-left-turns. These driving directions from a local hotel to the Seattle Aquarium require numerous contortions in order to obey one-way streets and find a route under the freeway, taking you out of the way of where you could go by foot:

Starting today, you can tell Google Maps that you want walking directions, and we'll try to find you a route that's direct, flat, and uses pedestrian pathways when we know about them. Just get directions as you normally would. If you're going 10 km or less (some call this 6.2 miles), we'll show you a link that you can click to get "Walking" directions:

Our walking directions for the same hotel-to-aquarium route ignore the direction of one-way streets and make use of a pedestrian-only path under the freeway. This route is more than half a mile shorter than if you were to drive:

If public transit directions are available for Google Maps in your area, you'll seen an improvement to them as well. We used to point to your destination from the nearest transit station, but unless you could fly these directions needed some tweaking.

Now, we'll give you step-by-step directions for the portion of your trip on foot:

Walking directions are a new feature for Google, and while I'm pretty excited about it, there are some rough edges that compel us to release it in "beta." 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.

Walking is a great way to learn about a place, to get around, and to get some exercise when the weather is nice. You'll notice shops, parks, and public art that you've been accustomed to zooming past, and come away feeling like you've really gotten the insider's take on a neighborhood or city. Of course, don't get too caught up in enjoying the sights! Please be careful, and be particularly attentive in high traffic areas. Just like if you were driving, follow road signs and signals along your route, and use good judgment about streets that can't be walked (there are many useful websites containing safety tips for pedestrians).
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll get out of the office for twenty minutes and take a stroll.