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Better data and technologies for walk-friendly cities

8 minute read
Urban designers have always been interested in walking neighborhoods, It is associated with many advantages such as the high price of real estate, the lower crime rate and the improvement of the health of the population.
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The city's suitability for walking contributes to improving the health status of its residents, reducing crime rates and increasing community participation. Governments can use data and artificial intelligence to improve their streets and make them pedestrian-friendly.

Urban designers have always been interested in walking neighborhoods, It is associated with many advantages such as the high price of real estate, the lower crime rate and the improvement of the health of the population. For example, A recent study found that adult individuals living in walkable neighborhoods have not only better physical health but higher cognitive function. Another study found that walk-friendly neighborhoods were associated with an increase in the number of art institutions and higher levels of community participation.

Many cities can become walkable, Jeff Speak, a city planner who has written two books on the subject: Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time andWalkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places He identified countless ways to achieve this, such as mixed-use real estate developments, combining parking spaces, providing mobility options, cycling and planting more trees. Besides improving the physical benefits that make cities more walkable, Some cities are using technologies to tackle this challenge.

One attempt is to develop a "gait scale" that offers a score of 0 to 100 to describe how easy (or difficult) it is to walk to basic facilities such as grocery stores, restaurants, and pharmacies from any location. This scale helps city planners, construction officials and society at large to know which locations are most suitable for pedestrians.

Cities also use data to improve pedestrian directions. There are a lot of electronic mapping services designed mainly for vehicles, While some offer pedestrian guidance, such as Google Maps, they are programmed to find the shortest route between two points, directing pedestrians to cross busier roads or sidewalks or even roads that do not have pavements, although there is an alternative.

Part of the challenge is the lack of data available on pedestrian paths. Many maps consider sidewalks as secondary data that is used to determine the location of streets and whether they contain sidewalks or not without adding other information. To deal with this challenge, A team of researchers at the University of Washington launched the OpenSidewalks project that created a data plan to represent more detailed information about sidewalks allowing cities to identify pedestrian walkways, traffic islands, and flat sidewalk edges.

To provide this information to users, The researchers launched the website AccessMap , which enables Seattle residents to get recommendations for personalized paths based on their individual needs. For example, The site offers various recommendations for individuals who use a wheelchair, scooter or crutch to help them avoid slopes or uneven pavements.

Other researchers are working on projects that allow users to customize their tracks based on various factors. For example A researcher at the Alan Turing Institute is modeling air pollution to recommend pathways that increase a person's likelihood of being exposed to clean air, which is very useful for asthma patients in particular.

Another researcher uses collective participatory resources and computer vision to identify the most beautiful streets so that individuals can choose paths that contain landscapes. All of these features require more data and better algorithms, Cities should look for more opportunities to add new layers of data to local maps through collaborative efforts and partnerships with wearable providers.

Finally, Some cities are adopting smart city solutions on sidewalks to make neighborhoods more walkable. The most simple examples of this are intelligent outdoor lighting systems that work when there are people nearby. The most advanced examples are, It is a London business model that uses cameras and a neural network to identify pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, predict their routes, and uses computer-controlled lighting to alert people to potential hazards, such as a child walking between lined up vehicles. For example, Lighting may form a footpath that appears when needed and adapts to the size of crowds or adjusts the distance between pedestrians and vehicles when streets are wet.

Most cities have to go a long way to become more walkable and technology has a big role to play.

Source: This article was written by Daniel Castro. Original article published on https://www.govtech.com/analytics/Making-Cities-More-Walkable-with-Better-Data-and-Technology.html

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