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The Green Life: Crowd-Sourced App Rates Walkability of Streets

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January 29, 2013

Crowd-Sourced App Rates Walkability of Streets

Walkonomics_Android_App_3_Screens_360The free Web- and Android-friendly Walkonomics app ostensibly scores streets in eight categories — including how pretty, how steep, how dangerous, and even whether a sidewalk exists — based on open data from governments and ratings by app users.

Essentially, though, Walkonomics’s mobile, crowd-sourced cartography recognizes walking as a means and an end.

The streets between our Point As and Bs make up small stories written as we go, where wearing high heels or holding hands with a toddler, not just distance, can inform the journey. Tourists might look for the easily navigable streets; for joggers, streets with crosswalks; for everyone, streets with restaurants, parks, or stores.

Studying and facilitating walking is Walkonomics founder Adam Davies’s vocation. He blogs about walking’s effect on the environment, society and individuals, and vice versa. He tweets walking stats and stories almost daily. Hilliness rating - SF_360 To Davies, simply walking could solve so much. Purchasing has its power, but getting out the door is among the greenest things we can do.

“Things like rising fuel prices and the growing obesity crisis and Generation Y, my own age group, who long to live in urban areas and not have to own a car because it’s better for the environment … All of these different things feed into getting more people walking,” Davies said. “There’s no downside to making cities and streets more walkable.”

Swelling interest from the streets up could make walkability a high priority for local governments and businesses.

“Places like Los Angeles and Houston, some of those big, sprawling cities — as normal people abandon cars or hire cars like Zipcar, cities like that are going to have to change to attract people to live,” Davies said.

So far, Walkonomics covers every street in San Francisco, New York City, and all of England. Davies used “open data sets” — with info on streets’ cleanliness, for instance — released by governments in the past three years as well as app-users’ ratings. The latter could grow Walkonomics’s coverage exponentially.

“You can add a totally new street onto the system and start rating it yourself,” Davies said. “We’re still building the community. Once the crowd sourcing is working, it will be self-policing.”

Think eBay seller ratings, where mass feedback shapes appeal. With one out of five stars — do want to go down that road?

Davies expects Walkonomics for the iPhone to be available for download in a couple weeks.

 

HS_Mackenzie_BLOG Mackenzie Mount is an editorial intern at Sierra. She's cleaned toilets at Yellowstone National Park and studied sustainable cooking at The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas.


READ MORE:

Henry David Thoreau's musings on "successful sauntering"

Chart your commute's carbon footprint with this app

New year, new software applications for mobile devices


 -images courtesy of Adam Davies.

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