Engaging the community to advocate for open sidewalks

Getting around the city quickly and arriving on-time can be a challenge, even if we are familiar with the urban space we are moving in. Fortunately, most of us benefit from digital maps to help us.

But not everyone’s needs are addressed by these tools. Some communities, like people with limited mobility, need a little more information to get around effectively. The trouble is that the big map platforms are focused on the general user, so these needs get left unaddressed.

Our Global Open Sidewalks project is hoping to address this with the work we are doing to standardise the documentation of sidewalk data. But we really need a strong map partner to make an impact, and that is why we’ve been so focused on engaging with OpenStreetMap. As an organisation that is founded on the principles of opening up the benefits of open-source technology to all, they make the perfect partner.

There aren’t many alternatives that fit this bill, so it has been really important to us to get this engagement strategy to right. So it was really fortunate that this week we were able to get a meeting with Clifford Snow, who coordinates the OpenStreetMap meetup for Seattle.

We were delighted to see that Clifford was enthusiastic about the work we’d completed so far in the project, and had some great suggestions when it came to thinking through potential routing complexities once we have the data. Clifford was able to give some really helpful suggestions as to who we need to be working with to start thinking about adapting the existing digital editor tools for openstreetmap to work with our proposed pedestrian standard, and was also keen to set-up a Mapathon event to prototype our approach on a trial segment of Seattle.

We’re going to be hosting the Mapathon on campus August 7th. Of course, we expect to see you all there :)