Google announced today that it will be adding skateboarding directions to its currently available driving, walking, transit and biking directions.
“Here at Google, many of our engineers commute by skateboard from their trendy lofts in San Francisco to the Googleplex, 35 miles away,” reads a post on the company’s blog. “We saw a chance to give others the ability to do the same.”
Users can get find ideal routes for skating based on their proximity to fast-food joints, the availability of empty swimming pools, and the lack of cops or security guards nearby. Tagged on the map are videos of skate tricks done in that location, allowing users to see how bad any potential injuries would be.
Skaters across Greater Washington are excited about the new service, which enables them to reach the region’s few and far-flung skate parks. 17-year-old Oscar Gonzalez of Laurel used to take three buses and a train to go skate in Gaithersburg. With Google Skateboard, he was able to find a new way to get there.
“It wasn’t right,” says Gonzalez. “Google Skateboard told me I could skate down these trails, but there was really a highway there and I got seriously thrashed. They should at least tell you to wear a helmet.”
Already, skate companies are taking notice of Google Skateboard’s popularity. Next month, DC Shoes will come out with a model that barks out directions in the voice of Henry Rollins. At this year’s Vans Warped Tour, a touring summer music festival, anyone who skates there and brings a Google Skateboard printout will receive a free Android phone.
Meanwhile, advocates in cities around the nation have been pushing to create or expand "skateboard lanes," which provide skaters a safer way to navigate the city. The lanes feature a 10' wide path crisscrossed with guardrails and curbs placed at random angles. However, a lane in Brooklyn's Park Slope has drawn opposition and even a lawsuit seeking to remove the lane.
The new feature coincides with the launch of DDOT and Arlington's newest joint venture, Skateboard Share (affectionately known as SkaSha), with initial stations at Freedom Plaza and Powhatan Springs. Montgomery County was approached about participating in the program, but declined.
“We fully support skateboarding as a legitimate form of expression and a spectacular way for our young people to get exercise,” says Carin Cartwright, activities coordinator for the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza. “But we’d prefer they do it away from county property, particularly the facilities that haven’t been paid off yet.”
Cartwright notes that many visitors to Veterans Plaza, where skateboarding was recently banned along with swearing and suggestive dancing, complained that the brightly-colored clothes skaters wear was a distraction. “I’m hopeful that skaters will use Google Skateboard to get directions to our new skate spot in Woodside Park, which I’ve been told now has room for as many as eight kids at once,” she adds.
This post was written by myself and Steve Offutt from GGW. Their busy posting schedule prevented them from running it today, so I offered to do it here.