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Commentary: Getting around with Google

Kristen Campbell, News Editor

Kristen Campbell, News Editor

Google Maps is a great help to anyone needing directions walking, driving, using public transits, and now, bicycling. My experience has always been an easy and efficient one, until I started playing around with the Web site.

While perusing summer vacations, I was curious how far Honolulu was from my house, so I pulled up Google Maps and got directions, thinking it would be a straight shot to give me mileage. To my surprise and amusement, the directions were not so direct.

After laughing for a good five minutes, I ventured to figure out this treasure map I had been presented with. As with every other directions-generator, it told me how to get out of my neighborhood as if I did not know how.

Without reading much further, the map itself told me to drive clear up to the bay between Washington state and Canada, then “kayak across the Pacific Ocean” for 2,756 miles.

First off, why go up to Washington? I am sure Long Beach has kayaks if someone desired to venture into the ocean. Secondly, why a kayak? The person who designed this set of directions must have laughed when they programmed Google Maps to spit out “kayak across the Pacific Ocean.”

Next, I decided to try out the new “bicycling” option, since in the summer, gas prices skyrocket and it is always nice to be able to hop on a bike and go on quick errands.
I put in my address and asked for the route to my best friend’s house, so I could guarantee I would not get lost when trying it out.

The first two steps were specific directions, so I was content with my findings until I read steps three and four. Step three states “turn right.” That’s it. The direction before it says to stay on the previous road for 394 feet, but since I am very bad with navigating, I would be completely lost as to where to turn.

Step four reads “turn right” in 0.2 miles. Due to my lack of directional senses, I could have turned anywhere. Between steps three and four, there are three chances to turn right.

How do I know what 0.2 miles is when I don’t have an odometer telling me how far I’ve gone?

I told my friend about my findings and he said that if I was going somewhere I had been before, I would know where to turn.

I argued saying I would not have looked up the directions if I knew how to get there. So, to make him happy, I searched a bike route to ULV.

Steps one through seven were specific, so once again I was pleased. And, as I suspected, step eight told me to “turn right” after 0.5 miles.

Sure, the directions supplied me with photos of each turn, but it is already hard to navigate on a bicycle while reading my directions, let alone looking at photos of each turn.

Besides the lack of specifics, the directions took me out of my way and into deserted, and probably unsafe, areas of the cities.

It turns out, I will only get to take a bike ride when I am headed somewhere I am familiar with.

Until Google Maps fixes their new bicycle option, driving to my destination, even in traffic, sounds like a sufficient plan.

Kristen Campbell, a freshman journalism major, is news editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at kristen.campbell@laverne.edu.

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