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Can Project Sidewalk use crowdsourcing to help Seattleites get around?

Published on August 21, 2019

Project Sidewalk helps users map accessibility around Seattle, other cities.
Project Sidewalk helps users map accessibility around Seattle, other cities. Image Credit: University of Washington, Project Sidewalk

Jon Froehlich distinctly remembers the moment when Google first unveiled Street View in 2007. The computer scientist spent hours virtually wandering through distant city streets and immersing himself in parts of the world he had yet to visit in real life. Then Froehlich had a thought: “What else could we use this for?”

Within a decade, he’d developed Project Sidewalk, a web-based crowdsourcing tool that turns mapping sidewalks and improving pedestrian accessibility into a virtual game. To complete missions, users “walk” through city streets via Google Street View, labeling and rating the quality of sidewalks and features that make it easier—or tougher—to get around. They identify curb ramps, or lack thereof, assess their positioning, and point out tripping hazards. Froehlich, now a University of Washington computer science and engineering professor, launched Project Sidewalk in Seattle this April.

Since then, users have mapped roughly a third of the city’s 2,300 miles of sidewalks and labeled nearly 70,000 curb ramps, uneven surfaces, potential obstacles like lamp posts, too. Froehlich’s primary interest in collecting this data is to help people with limited mobility navigate city streets safely.


Continue reading at Seattle Met.

Originally written by Lily Hansen for Seattle Met.
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