When Washingtonians like myself look for new apartments, we pay close attention to the walk score of a neighborhood. Any score upwards of 90 on a hundred point scale marks an area as a “walker’s paradise,” meaning major needs such as grocery stores and transit are within walking distance. However, what is not factored into the walkability score is the actual condition of the sidewalks.
For parents pushing babies around in strollers, a big crack in a sidewalk can be an unwelcome nuisance. For wheelchair users and others with limited mobility, obstructions like these can make a sidewalk almost entirely inaccessible. A city is only as accessible as its sidewalks. And access to quality sidewalks is paramount for all people walking.
Thanks to Project Sidewalk and its crowdsourcing platform, volunteers were able to travel digitally through DC streets and assess the accessibility of its 1,495 miles of sidewalk. Volunteers marked every sidewalk obstruction they saw on Google Maps and rated its severity.
Now I’ve turned it into an interactive map that allows DC residents to explore the sidewalk obstructions in their neighborhoods. Take a look below.
Feel free to zoom around the map or type in your address in the search bar to see the status of the sidewalks in your immediate area. If you hover over a dot, which represents an obstruction, you’ll get information on the severity, location, and ranking of the region on the map, so you can see how accessible the streets are generally in your neighborhood.
Some top highlights:
- The place with the highest concentration of sidewalk obstructions is the area around the National Mall, which you think would have better upkeep considering it’s such an important destination for visitors to DC. At the same time, this is somewhat expected since the area is traversed by 25 million people a year, according to a National Park Service fact sheet.
- Surprisingly, less affluent neighborhoods actually didn’t have worse off sidewalks. Of the top 10 neighborhoods with the most obstructions, half could be considered low to medium income, the other five medium to high income.
Below is a ranking of the top 10 areas in DC with the most sidewalk obstructions:
The most common type of issue impacting the accessibility of the sidewalks are obstacles like construction or trash cans, with over 12,000 of them blocking DC’s sidewalks. After that, a sidewalk with no curb ramp comes in at 8,670. Lastly, there are 5,740 surface problems—things like broken concrete—facing DC residents.
Many cities around the world, like Vancouver, Canada, are focusing on making all of their neighborhoods “complete,” which means that residents can reach all of their major needs by foot.
But for neighborhood services to really be reachable by pedestrians, the sidewalks we use to get to them need to be built and maintained so that everyone can use them to get where they’re going. Whether you are a parent pushing a stroller, someone walking with crutches, or a person who uses a wheelchair, you deserve quality sidewalks that are always accessible to you.
While the DC mapping project is complete, Project Sidewalk is looking for help in mapping the other Washington (Seattle to be exact). Start mapping today!