There are two websites that I use pretty regularly here in the Big Apple. I walk a LOT, and I’ve recently begun biking again, a lot. Google Maps is great for driving directions, but with all the one way streets and time-of-day restrictions here in the city, sometimes you end up walking several blocks out of the way to hit streets going in the right direction.
Of course, when you’re walking, or sometimes biking, you don’t need to travel in the primary direction of traffic. Ride The City is a Google Maps mash up that allows you to get biking directions. It will emphasize bike routes, streets with dedicated bike lanes, wider streets, and multi-lane side streets. It will avoid tunnels, highways, and no-bikes-allowed bridges and streets. It allows you to pick “Safest Route”, “Safe Route”, and “Most Direct Route”, so you can pick your priorities. I usually do the “Most Direct Route”, but if I’m traveling at night or in foul weather, I’ll do a safe route.
The other website I’ve been having fun with is WalkScore. Just type in your address, (or possibly more importantly, where you’re thinking of moving) and it will score your location on walkability. It takes into account nearby grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, schools, parks, drugstores, libraries, bookstores, hardware stores, and clothing stores that are within walking distance, and scores the location accordingly.
Here at Lounge HQ in Brooklyn, I get a walk score of 100. My parents house in Suburban Washington DC gets a 5. Yep, a 5. You can use this score to determine if this is a good place to live. Scores range from “Car Dependant” (my parents) to “Walkers Paradise” (me). If you want to avoid owning a car, or at least avoid driving one as much as possible, check out WalkScore before you move. It could save a car.
Both of these websites are a mash-up of a good idea and Google Maps. Google has a ton of websites out there that let users download an API (Application Programming Interface) and use Google’s data to present information in different ways. For more information on mash ups and APIs and what-not, check out Programmable Web