Thursday, 28 February 2013

Walkability – a mobile app that rates walking routes

imageWalkonomics has released an app for the iPhone and iPad that rates the pedestrian-friendliness (Walkability) of every street in England (and New York and San Francisco).

The Walkonomics mobile app provides five star ratings for several aspects of each street, including:

  • imageRoad safety;
  • Easy to cross;
  • Pavement/Sidewalk;
  • Hilliness;
  • Navigation;
  • Fear of crime;
  • Smart & beautiful;
  • Fun & relaxing.

The app uses over 600,000 street ratings generated from open data such as street widths, traffic levels, cleanliness reports, gradients, crime statistics, pedestrian accidents and even how many trees are on each street. Local crowdsourced reviews are added to this automatically generated data - app users can add their own ratings and reviews.

You can check the walkability of nearby streets and areas, search by location, place name or post code and discover new walker-friendly areas and streets. Maps are displayed with colour-coded markers indicating the walkability of the streets.

Walkonomics points out that living on a pedestrian-friendly street can increase the value of your house by up to £30,000 - a recent survey found that 77% of people wanted to buy a home in such an area. Walkable streets also apparently boost retail sales by up to 80%. The app provides a way for home buyers, tourists and businesses to find the best walking routes and sustainable locations to live, work and visit.

Adam Davies is the man behind Walkonomics. He spent over six years working to improve the walking, biking and the general sustainability of streets and neighbourhoods in the UK, Europe and Africa. He has worked with the UN, Transport for London, Department for Transport, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and the Royal National Institute for the Blind.


Review:  It’s an interesting idea and, in terms of encouraging people to walk more, has real sustainability benefits. An example of green ICT helping people to reduce their carbon footprint.

The rating system must be a bit tricky, though. The UK (and Europe) will be very different to the US – we have meandering roads and pedestrian routes, compared with a generally more rigid grid system in the US. Certainly in the UK the most interesting streets may not be the most walkable. Tourists, for example, may be looking for sights to see and street markets that are busy and crowded. By just sticking to wide, flat streets you could miss a lot of what’s interesting. But then I guess you can focus on different aspects of the ‘walkability’ rating.

What I would like to see, though, is a mapping system that covers walking routes anywhere in the UK, including footpaths. We have a lot of rights of way that can make walking a lot more enjoyable – taking you away from roads altogether - but as far as I’m aware there are no solutions that can help get the best from all the available walking routes (Google walking routes doesn’t).

© The Green IT Review

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