Dear Google Maps

· mumblings ·

Dear Google Maps,

We need to have a quick word about your walking directions feature. Don't get me wrong -- I love your maps, and dragging the selected route around to re-direct it is brilliant. I use your service a lot, and not just when I'm trying to find directions to an unfamiliar destination. For example, this weekend, I used the walking directions when I was too lazy to get out a map and a bit of string and measure a distance we'd just walked to a familiar destination.

You see, we often walk out to a favourite country pub at weekends, and take a number of different routes, depending on whether the footpath will be too muddy, or how much time we have for a leisurely walk. We were wondering how long each leg was, and had guessed at somewhere between 7 and 8 miles for the round trip. So I turned to Google Maps and set directions for each leg separately. Combined, the route came to 7.7 miles, which was pretty close to our estimate, but the time estimate was out. By quite a bit. Despite having set the method as 'walking' the time estimate read 11 minutes for the 4 mile leg.

That would make the pace 2.75 minutes per mile, which is quite a lick. The winner of the men's race at the London Marathon this weekend set a roughly 4.8 minute pace for each mile. Granted, 26 miles is more than 4, but even so. Furthermore, when you've had half a pint of lovely real ale (OK, a pint. All right, a pint and a half) while sitting in the sunshine in the pub garden, and are then meandering home in Fotherington Thomas mode, looking at the pretty wild flowers and butterflies, listening to birds singing and watching buzzards circling on thermals, your pace is substantially less than 2.75 minutes per mile.

In fact, it should be much easier to predict the time taken to walk a given distance than to drive it, because you are not going to get held up by traffic, roadworks and so on. So here's a suggestion, Google. Why not provide a slider next to the dropdown for walking directions, with which you can set your own walking pace? Set it at 3 miles/hour as default (which will be pretty accurate for most people), and then fast or slow walkers can increase or decrease as necessary. Then all you need to do is a simple calculation based on the measured distance.

Love, bsag xxx

P.S. In case you are wondering, our actual time for the 4 mile return trip was 1 hour 15 minutes. Without the beer, sunshine and when not in Fotherington Thomas mode, it would have been about an hour.