Using Smartphones to Improve Walkability
When it comes to walking in the city, a smartphone is now almost as important as a good pair of shoes. Our phones provide us with pedestrian sat-nav, reviews of the best places to visit and even measure how many calories we’re burning, while we walk. In fact recent research suggeststhat our phones are encouraging us to walk further in the city and explore more places.
Now a new mobile app from Walkonomics provides an essential tool for the walkable lifestyle. The Walkonomics app enables people to check the walkability of the street they’re standing in, as well as discover new walkable streets in other areas and add their own reviews. The free app, which is available for Android devices, uses over 600,000 street ratings from Walkonomics.com, covering every street in San Francisco, New York and England. But unlike other walkability apps, which only measure how many destinations are within walking distance, the Walkonomics app provides 5-star ratings for 8 different categories of pedestrian-friendliness:
- Road safety;
- Easy to cross;
- Fear of crime;
- Smart & beautiful;
- Fun & relaxing.
These ratings are generated from Open Data including street widths, traffic levels, 311 cleanliness reports, gradients, crime statistics, pedestrian accidents and even how many trees are on each street. This automatically generated data is complimented by crowdsourced reviews from local residents and visitors, with the idea that any incorrect ratings are cancelled out by the ratings of local people who know the area. Each street rating is mapped on a Google Map using colour-coded markers to show the overall walkability rating for every street.
This crowdsourcing approach is further enhanced by the Walkonomics mobile app which enables users to add their own ratings and reviews as they walk down each street. App users can even take photos with their smartphone, geo-reference them and add them into each review. But Walkonomics for Android isn’t just a great tool for discovering walkable streets and neighbourhoods, it also provides a highly usable, free tool for local communities, business and governments to undertake ‘walkability audits’ of streets and areas. Walkability audits (also known as walkability assessments) are gaining popularity with local governments and community groups in the USA and UK, as a way of getting residents views and opinions of how to improve their local streets. A walkability audit often involves organising an event where local people, politicians, police and design experts ‘walkabout’ several streets, identifying problems and suggesting solutions.
The Walkonomics mobile app provides a free complimentary crowdsourcing tool for these kinds of events, allowing more people to be involved, add their reviews and post suggestions for improvements. With an iPhone app on the way and more US and Canadian cities to be added, the Walkonomics mobile app has the potential to become the new ‘must-have’ app for not only discovering and enjoying walkable streets, but also transforming and making streets more pedestrian-friendly. Why not try it for yourself, download the Walkonomics Android App here.