I always assume I’m the last to learn about a new technology, but after just finishing the cover story in the Sunday magazine Parade, I realized that maybe some of you aren’t familiar with Google Street View, especially how it can be used by people who walk, run or cycle.
Google’s enhanced its Maps feature with actual snapshots of popular areas in major cities. Just like when it started showing satellite photos so everyone could see exactly where we live and work and recreate, Street View's generated ample criticism among those who enjoy some privacy.
But one nice benefit is getting a sneak peak of an area’s landscape, especially if you’re traveling. When I’m on the road, I’ll type in the address for a home or hotel into Google Maps, then broaden it to include the entire neighborhood. I’ll click the top righthand button called Street View to see just what the area looks like. If a street's outlined in blue on the map, it's View-enabled. You can “move” down a street with your mouse and cursor. Are there sidewalks or bike lanes? Narrow streets? Lots of cars? Lots of people? Blocks of abandoned buildings? Pretty parks with asphalt or dirt paths? Water fountains? Kiosks or convenience stores for quick refueling?
The feature doesn’t cover every street, or every city for that matter. But if you travel for business or pleasure, there’s a good chance you’re heading for a metropolitan area that is on the map. It's great for race course previews too.