Google Maps is pretty awesome in San Francisco. The business listings are up-to-date. The driving and walking routes are solid. The biking routes are even better (with hills noted for the incline-adverse). And it just, well, works. For Barcelona it just, well, doesn’t.
It’s no secret that Google Maps has been a disaster in Catalonia for some time. Part of this is the supposed use of Spanish and Catalan in the region, although pretty much everything location-wise is in Catalan so that’s not really an issue (guys, there is no sign that says Figueras or Gerona, only Figueres and Girona). But, it goes beyond that.
I’m a huge map nerd (I blame it on my mother’s Portuguese family, although my mother could get lost in a studio apartment) and even if I’m not living somewhere or going there any time soon, I still poke around at city maps all over the world. But, actually knowing a great wealth of streets in Barcelona, Google Maps is fucking killing me. Take for instance Carrer de San Felip Neri. That’s a lovely little street that opens on a lovely little square with a fountain in it. According to what you see on Google Maps, it’s a pedestrian ring road that goes directly through solid buildings. This looks like a map that a three year-old would draw, not the world of a company that’s basically worth more than Jesus and The Beatles combined.
Then there are the walking directions. Holy crap. What you see above is what happens when I try to map a stroll from a friend’s place in Poble Sec to another friend’s place in Poble Nou, essentially going directly across the center of Barcelona. Well, that’s not entirely true as the initial route that Google comes up with is 4km long and takes an hour to walk. This is a steaming load as you can basically walk directly through the center and takes about a half hour, even with fighting the plague of sheepish tourists there. Of course, there’s no way to get rid of that half a kilometer detour that Google Maps come up with to essentially go around Las Ramblas when you can cross it at countless points.
Yeah, “Walking directions are in beta. Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.” My only problem with this is that it’d be like Ford releasing a concept car for people to drive where the wheels exploded at random points. You can’t release a product like this and call it a product, with or without the “beta”.
What Google really needs to do is a) once and for all purge all these shit names that are screwy Spanglish like “Calle de Santo Domingo” b) open up the damned MapMaker editor so that people on the ground can correct these things because they will indeed correct them given the tools. This last bit is very interesting as there are 193 countries in the world, of which MapMaker is open for 190 countries and regions. Spain is one of the few (in addition to Croatia, South Sudan, Israel, and others) where it is not allowed, which smacks of something much larger going on beyond blurring out military bases that are really just a vacation home for politicians.