Over the years, I’ve lived in six different cities, in four different countries, on three continents. A city’s walkability is something I’m always focused on because I’ve always relied on walking and public transportation.
My latest move has landed me in Austin, Texas, a city well-known for its live music, amazing food, eccentric style—and car-culture. Austin has a WalkScore of 47, compared to New York City's score of 85. Experiencing the walkability issues here got me wondering, “Can a mobile tool allow us to collaboratively design more walkable streets?”
As American cities grow, shrink and evolve there needs to be a solution to walkability issues sooner rather than later. A city’s walkability is directly linked to the local economy and health. It’s unsustainable continuing to design cities for drivers and not pedestrians.
Urban planning is stuck in a rut and needs a more proactive approach. The typical planning process with slow research, slow planning, and then a sudden, irreversible commitment to a strategy—called the "waterfall method"—results in the sensation of drowning with no hope of resuscitation. I believe urban design could learn a few things from agile software development. Agile processes embrace change and promote sustainable development.
It’s possible to create more walkable solutions that are economical, sustainable and beautiful by collaborating on design ideas as a community using technology. Mobile devices make it possible to tap into contextual, real-time data and feedback from local citizens in revolutionary ways.
Working in User Experience and Service Design has proven to me that more can be achieved when you bring all of the stakeholders into the room to collaborate on a design solution. When it comes to walkable streets, citizens are the most important stakeholders and they have been kept at a distance from the design process. This problem can be solved by creating a platform which acts as a virtual space for collaboration.
In web design, we conduct incremental user research and testing to validate and inform design decisions. As a designer you start to form ideas for solutions which lead to a lot of questions. Many of these questions can’t be answered by data alone. Design workshops are necessary to get a clearer perspective on the specific problems a design solution needs to solve.
Key to the Street’s Walkable Urban Design Tool is a mobile service that virtually allows anyone to design more walkable streets. It aims to break down silos formed within government agencies and establishes a new way to think about urban planning. Providing the ability to conduct user research and testing via mobile devices will result in better design decisions.
Every dollar we raise on Kickstarter is a vote for a collaborative approach to walkability design issues. Please back us today.
The goal is to raise the social status of pedestrians through an interactive mobile service. Help inspire citizens to discover the walkable potential of their community. Align common goals of city planners with those of the local residents and put more ideas into action.
Meet Jess Lowry, Founder & Product Manager of Key to the Street.
Images courtesy of Jess Lowry.