Redesigning City Streets with a Mobile Phone

Key to the Street is a cloud-based service that allows anyone with a mobile device to participate in the design of public spaces.

Have you ever asked yourself, "What can I do today to make my city a better place to live?"

Up until a few years ago, it wouldn't have occurred to me to ask that question. My city was detached from the forces that managed it. I never had any expectation of influencing the place I called home. I went to work, exercised, paid my bills, hung out with my friends—and my city was simply the place where all those things occurred. It's not that I didn't have any ideas for improving the city; I just never thought about getting involved.

When I attended SXSW Interactive in 2012, I heard two different women deliver speeches that changed how I thought about making change. One of those women was Jennifer Pahlka, the founder of Code for America. She got me thinking about the role of government and how open software could disrupt and improve the old ways of doing things. City services could become better and cheaper through open technology. Anthropologist Amber Case informed all the conference attendees that we were technically cyborgs, being that we are attached to mobile devices that could allow us to become smarter and more efficient.

I came back from the conference incredibly inspired by the possibilities of mobile devices enabling each of us to become a force of positive change in our cities. I thought to myself, many people don't have the time to sit in a city hall meeting to present their concerns and/or ideas to improve their city streets. A previous project with the Environmental Protection Agency of Victoria helped me realize that by connecting as many people as possible and providing the right open source tools, people can and will create positive change for themselves. I came up with an idea for a product so compelling I left my workplace in Melbourne and relocated to Austin, Texas, to begin work on my own startup.

Key to the Street is a cloud-based service that allows anyone with a mobile device to participate in the design of public spaces. The main focus is encouraging more people to walk—the cheapest and easiest way to improve one's wellbeing. I'm starting with a focus on walking because most cities need to scale down to allow for this basic activity—to put the focus on health and sustainability. People are encouraged to use Key to the Street when they're physically standing at the exact location they hope to help improve. Everyone can share their ideas for better designs and learn from one another. Cities can become even better by enabling more people to participate in urban design.

The process begins with you standing in a street area you think needs improving and capturing a photo and the location info in the Key to the Streets app. You then have the option of either sketching and/or dragging/dropping elements on the photo to provide design ideas. There's also an option to send audio or a text message about your ideas.

Key to the Street then collects and analyzes this data for city planners to help them make well-informed decisions for redevelopment projects. Urban designers can use this data generated from local citizens to not only inspire design plans but also give proof to city government that there is a need for street redesign. As a result both citizens and designers accelerate the process of making their cities more walkable.

Please join my team by backing Key to the Street on Kickstarter. The City of Austin is ready to use this tool in a pilot, but I can't deliver it until I'm able to complete more of the development work. There is a plan for scaling the service quickly so that Key to the Street can be available in every city around the world and I've already received interest in funding once the beta version is built.

Anyone can use Key to the Street to create a project to improve any type of public space and invite others to collaborate on ideas. Whoever is interested in participating can use the design tool to sketch on top of a photo or image to submit different ideas. After the pilot is complete in Austin this spring, Key to the Street can be released globally and we'll all be able to use it anywhere in the world. Your support of Key to the Street on Kickstarter today can help make your city a better place to live.

Images via (cc) Flickr user Alex Hayes and

This project is part of GOOD's series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.


Two years after its opening in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art acquired a painting by Sarah Miriam Peale — its first work by a female artist. More than a century later, one might assume that the museum would have a fairly equal mix of male and female artists, right? But as of today, only 4% of the 95,000 pieces in the museum's permanent collection were created by women.

The museum is determined to narrow that gap, and they're taking a drastic step to do so.

Keep Reading Show less
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

Keep Reading Show less
via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet