With the weather finally getting nicer, there is nothing better than getting out of the house and into the city to take a walk.
But what if there was a way for you to figure out which streets in your city were better to stroll on than others? Well, like everything in life nowadays, there is an app for that.
Walkonomics is a free web, iOS and Android app that rates the walkability of pedestrian-friendly streets in a selection of cities around the world. They have rated over 600,000 streets in the UK, San Francisco and New York and just recently added over 42,000 more streets from the city of Toronto.
Walkonomics is like a Yelp for streets. The app lets you locate pedestrian-friendly walkways around you using GPS or search and presents you with their overall rating. In this way, you can now choose the route you want to take to walk to a restaurant or store in the same way you most likely selected these destinations – crowd-sourcing feedback.
The app maps and rates each street based on eight key walkability factors:
- Road safety;
- Location and ease of crossing;
- Accessibility and condition of pavements/sidewalks;
- Hilliness and slope;
- Navigation including access to street signs;
- Fear of crime;
- General Aesthetics (including number of trees)
- And a Fun and Relaxing factor which looks at what is on the street and how popular it is.
Most of the data in the app comes from what Walkonomics calls the WalkoBot, an automatic system that interprets open data that is available from the city. The app founder, Adam Davies, worked closely with Toronto city officials to ensure that he was utilizing the best walkability datasets the city is collecting and making available to the public.
Because the app allows users to add their own reviews and ratings, street ratings will evolve over time to be much more organic and better reflect what the community feels about the roads around them.
According to Walkonomics, many of Toronto’s walkways and trails gained the highest rating of four stars and above including the Waterfront Trail and Highland Creek Trail. Some of the lowest rated streets include Ellesmere Road, which has six lanes of traffic and very few pedestrian crossings, Kingston Road, and Lawrence Avenue East, which has seven lanes of traffic.
The street I live on, King Street West, only received a rating of 2.4 out of 5, with high points given for navigation (4.5) and aesthetics (4.5) but weak spots particular to road safety (0.5) and ease to cross (0.5). Although it’s lower than I would give (being biased of course) the pros and cons are pretty accurate for the area.
The overall user experience and design of the Walkonomics app both online and on iOS leaves a lot to be desired but the general concept is novel and could be quite a useful feedback tool for city planners since the app will be collecting real-time reviews and ratings from the community on their surroundings. Of course it’s also a great tool for city-goers who love to make decisions and get recommendations from the community around them.
Davies told me that they chose Toronto as the first Canadian city based on its size as well as its reputation for being walking-friendly but most importantly because of its wide selection of open data. He intends to rollout additional Canadian cities starting with Montreal later this year.
Davies also stated that Toronto definitely has the highest proportion of most walkable streets, or streets with ratings of 3 or higher compared to the other locations the apps supports. Go Toronto! So if you are in the city, open the app – and get walking!