UK researcher Adam Davies has single-handedly launched Walkonomics?an app (for iOS and Android) and also a website that analyzes a host of data in order to tell users how pedestrian-friendly a particular street or block is, Atlantic Cities reports. As much as we laud the effort, as well as his goal of having users post comments and critiques that affect the original rating, Walkonomics's pronouncements on NYC don't quite hit the mark.
This monumental idea of being able to amble along without risk of losing your life (or even to make your life better) has only recently been quantifiable at all; Davies's methodology creates zero- to five-star ratings based on eight pretty complex criteria: road safety; ease of crossing; pavement/sidewalk size and quality; hilliness; ease of navigation; crime rate; beauty; and level of fun/relaxation. The current reach of his research extends to Manhattan, San Francisco, London, and other English cities, though other cities are in the pipeline.
For instance, a quick search put Seventh Avenue in the 40s (2.7 stars) as having higher walkability than East 91st Street (2.3 stars). Yes, there's the much-contested Times Square pedestrian plaza and all, but take a look at that screenshot of the Walkonomics website above. Does that line of cars LOOK conducive to walking? Meanwhile, East 91st Street is labeled as having very high levels of crime?but the Upper East Side isn't exactly a hotbed of illegal activity.
Many of the inconsistencies may come from an unrefined algorithm, data that just isn't available for certain cities or parts of cities, or data that isn't weighted properly relative to reality. For example, crime is always going to be higher in a city than suburbs or rural area, and should be treated as such. The site's fun to play around with, but it needs more user-generated ratings in order to up its accuracy.
· An App That Tells You How Walkable A Street Really Is [Atlantic Cities]
· Official site: Walkonomics [www.walkonomics.com]