21st Century tool for pedestriansNo, Walkonomics is not a new blog by Steven Levitt. Rather, it's a new entrant to the field of walkability rating, joining the current leader Walk Score, but taking a somewhat different approach. Their stated goal is to "rate the pedestrian-friendliness of every street in the world." To do this, they use 8 main criteria:
Road safety: How safe do you feel from traffic on this street? It is influenced by actual road accident statistics (where available), street type, traffic speeds and activity.
Easy to cross: How easy it is to cross the street at regular points along the street? It is influenced by the traffic activity on the street, street width, physical barriers and provision of pedestrian crossings.
Pavements /Sidewalks: Are pavements/sidewalks provided along the street? Are they high quality? Are they wide enough? Do they have a lot of unnecessary clutter/furniture on them? Are they overcrowded?
Hilliness: Is the street flat or on a hill? How steep is any slope? If the street is steep, then are any hand-rails or seats provided?
Navigation: How easy is it to find your way around in this street and area? Is it easy to become lost here? Are any street names, pedestrian signs or maps provided?
Fear of crime: How safe do you feel from crime on this street? It is influenced by actual crime statistics (where available) as well as perceived fear or crime. Other factors include lighting, vandalism, graffiti and presence of police.
Smart and beautiful: How clean is the street? Is there much litter or vandalism? Is it regularly cleaned? Does the street have any trees or other green vegetation? Are the buildings attractive and in good condition?
Fun and relaxing: Is this a fun, interesting and popular place to be? Are there things to do in this street? Would you choose to spend time and hang-out here? Does the street have a relaxing atmosphere? Is it noisy or stressful? Can you play in this street?
But since it's not practical to have a guy with a clipboard walk every single street, they use public databases and computer models (what they call the WalkBot) to come up with a base rating. User reviews can then be added to fill in the blanks and add precision where it might be lacking.
Walkonomics has released an app for Android and iPhone, and while it's still early days, it shows promise. The main downside is that so far they only cover New York City, San Francisco, and the UK. So unless you live there or plan to travel in one of those places soon, you'll probably have to wait until they expand coverage.