Oregon Walks GIS Jammers meet with 'Key to the Street' founder in Austin, TX

During the holiday break, Katie Urey of Oregon Walks GIS Jammers met with Jessica Lowry, founder of Key to the Street in Austin, TX. Sitting in an eclectic South Austin cafe the conversation tracked across the range of issues and opportunities for pedestrian advocates to use technology as a tool for community action.

‚Äč Jessica and Katie in Austin

Globally there is a growing movement concerning the needs of pedestrians to access safe walking conditions. As cities become more compact and efficient car reliances are being reduced and sometimes even entirely eliminated. This culture shift is profoundly exciting. Portland is increasingly seen by cities such as Austin as the poster child of cycling and alternatives to car centric urban design.

Walking remains to be the less chic alternative mode of transportation. But that’s something Jessica hopes to change with Key to the Street. Part of the goal for this surveying service is to raise the profile of pedestrians.

Key to the Street invites you to participate in the design of streets and public spaces by sharing your ideas, photos, designs and location information. One of the features currently available for you to try is the design tool which allows you to drag and drop objects onto a photo to illustrate your ideas for a more inviting environment for cyclists and pedestrians. The current proof of concept for the design tool is restricted to one particular area of Austin, however; future versions of the service will allow you to upload your own photos and collaborate with other users.

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Image from Lonely Planet

Defining a street as ‘walkable’ goes beyond the physical existence of a sidewalk. Walkable streets need to be safe and inviting. Safety issues aren’t merely the proximity of traffic or cars to the pedestrian. Pedestrian safety concerns also involve crime. Many times a neighborhood has sidewalks, but isn’t perceived as walkable by local citizens.

There is more to walkability than the existence of sidewalks which is why Key to the Street invites you to think about the environment of the street in terms of lighting, pubic art and green ‘technologies’. Creating more beautiful and sustainable walking environments is the key to our future green cities. How we achieve this goal will take all of our ideas and participation. This is one way technology and community action will shape the legacy we leave behind for future generations.

Learn more about Key to the Street and please become a backer on Kickstarter. The deadline is January 14th