Mapping Sidewalks for Improved Connectivity

A new tool uses aerial image recognition to map a city’s sidewalks and crosswalks. Its developers hope it will aid in creating a more comprehensive understanding of pedestrian networks and where improvements are needed.

1 minute read

March 22, 2023, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Sidewalk

Free-Photos / Pixabay

For many Americans, walking is an essential part of their daily trips to transit stops, schools, jobs, and other destinations. But as Peter Disikes explains for the MIT News Office, “Most cities and towns in the U.S. do not have sidewalk maps, and pedestrians are usually left to fend for themselves.”

Thanks to an effort led by researchers from MIT and other universities, “an open-source tool that uses aerial imagery and image-recognition to create complete maps of sidewalks and crosswalks” is now helping to bridge the information gap and provide planners and policymakers with a way to accurately assess the state of their city’s sidewalk network. “The tool, called TILE2NET, has been developed using a few U.S. areas as initial sources of data, but it can be refined and adapted for use anywhere.”

While many cities have incomplete sidewalk systems, advocating for expanding them is difficult without access to hard data. “The whole world of urban data for public transit and pedestrians and bicycles is really far behind [vehicle data] in quality. Analyzing how cities can be operational without a car requires this kind of data,” says Andres Sevtsuk, associate professor at MIT.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 in MIT News

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