Improving walkability with a web-app, a street, and two feet

If you could give your street a grade for walkability, how would it rate? How about the streets for the rest of your neighborhood, where you work, or where you shop? Creating a walk-friendly place where people feel comfortable on the street is a key part of developing vibrant communities, and the folks at Walkonomics are working hard to help people find and share how their streets rate.

Through the collective power of open data, crowdsourcing, and social media, Walkonomics has generated over 600,000 ratings for streets throughout the UK and New York City. The web-app provides a zero to five star walkability rating for city streets based on eight characteristics: road safety, ease of crossing, presence and quality of pavements or sidewalks, hilliness, ease of navigation, fear of crime, cleanliness and appearance, and quality of life. Public street data is evaluated using these eight categories to generate an overall rating of walkability for the street, which is then displayed on an interactive map using color-coded markers. You can search for a street, view its rating and those for surrounding roads, see a detailed breakdown of the rating, check out a first-person perspective using street view, and view other users’ comments about a street's condition, all in one interface.

My favorite feature of the app is how it allows users to add their own ratings for streets, which factor into the overall rating average. The app allows anyone to voice their praises or complaints and offers an interactive space for people to discuss conditions and post suggestions for improvement. There is huge potential for city governments to get involved here by sharing data and receiving feedback from citizens on where changes are needed most. City planners especially could use this information to identify areas where pedestrian improvement projects would have the greatest impact. Interactive apps like Walkonomics are offering exciting new opportunities for helping cities create lively, walk-friendly spaces.

~ Allison Bullock