I found this website via another one: walkit.com. The reason it's so great is that it provides directions for people who don't drive (gasp!). Unfortunately, it currently only serves Birmingham, Edinburgh, and London. However, if you were visiting a friend in Edinburgh, and wanted to get from where they lived (arbitrarily selected as "St. Margarets Place") to Princes Street (where the upscale shops seem to be), then using standard mapping technology will not provide you with the best answer, especially if you are walking or cycling. (Additionally, since the traffic is limited on Princes Street to buses and taxis - which I still think is the case - using a standard mapping program will not provide you with an adequate answer.) The total distance using GoogleMaps is 2.5miles, and takes the walker/cyclist along Clerk St (A7) - a pretty busy road that isn't along the most direct path between points A and B. Is this the best way for a pedestrian/cyclist to go?
In steps walkit.com. Typing in the start and end points in this interface, you find out that the shortest walkable distance is 1.5 miles, and you can cut through the city parks and go through the castle district (such a great direct road!). Of course, this is merely the most direct path; no mention is made of the great vertical changes one encounters along this path (meaning that while it may be faster for a pedestrian, it might be easier for a cyclist to actually fight traffic on Clerk St than cycle up and down the castle hill to get to Princes Street beyond).
Still, cutting the walking distance by 1 mile is probably a good thing (in my book), plus offering the option of walking through the parks rather than sticking to the streets is also nice. And not having to worry about calculating in the one-way street systems one might find in a city center is yet another bonus.
Now if someone could do something similar to this for other cities. Maybe even tying it in with the public transport routes and schedules to provide a person just visiting a city with the best method of getting from A to B (especially if you are visiting NYC for the first time and need to integrate the subways and buses in your trip to make the most of your MTA card purchase).
If you know of something like this - where public transportation routes are included in providing directions - then please tell me about it.