Stuff that matters

where the sidewalk ends

There’s finally a tool for navigating cities that puts people before cars.

Have you ever found Google Maps leading you, a pedestrian, on the steepest possible route from Point A to Point B? For many of us, it’s an annoyance — but if you’re in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller, that route might have proved impassable.

To address the need for a travel-planning tool based on accessibility and sidewalk conditions, a team at the University of Washington created AccessMap. It uses open-source data to customize routes to an individual’s needs, accounting for obstacles such as steep hills, blocked-off construction zones, and sidewalks without sloped curbs.

There’s a catch, of course: AccessMap is only available in Seattle at the moment. The team has created the OpenSidewalks project to allow people in urban areas to crowdsource real-world conditions for pedestrians — everything from uneven sidewalks to the presence of inadequate street lights.