We are impressed by the Widen My Path tool from CycleStreets which was launched last month.
The Widen My Path tool is a website that allows you to easily leave comments on a street map of England about changes needed to the specific roads or pavements to improve physical (social) distancing. We found many of the comments flag areas where safety improvements are needed regardless of social distancing measures. Councils and local groups can use the resulting map to see where changes should be prioritised. This type of tool can really help us at Push Bikes identify safety problems and support our engagement with the Council.
The tool asks you to categorise your comments into three areas; Cycling, Pavement and Road Closures. You can see all the comments placed by other people, and you can upvote other people’s comments, and easily see those comments with the most votes by the size of the flag on the map.
We found that the website works well on a smart phone, and a laptop, and it felt very intuitive to us. It was helped that you don’t have to leave your personal details, or register to use the tool.
We like that the software and data are freely available to support Councils and campaigners. Anyone can download it. They have even organised the data by local authority.
At Push Bikes we love data! So we couldn’t resist downloading Birmingham to see how this is being used and what it tells us at this early stage;
After the tool had been around for about 2 weeks, we downloaded 236 entries for Birmingham.
Around half of the comments 116 (49%) relate to cycling, 68 (29%) were for road closures, and 52 (22%) relate to pavements or tracks.
Clearly the cycling community dominate the comments currently which is not surprising as it has been developed by CycleStreets, but we hope that more local street groups will hear about this to capture pedestrian and wider views. There are still large areas of Birmingham that haven’t yet used the tool.
In my area of Kings Heath/Moseley I was alerted to the website by a local street non-cycling group, and we have some of the highest upvotes for comments, and a lot entries in our area. It is interesting to read the battle of views on some of our streets; from close the road, to make it one way or add parking spaces. I know the councillors have been working hard to resolve some of these long-standing issues.
It is also good to see a lot of pedestrian and cycling views around schools. At the least, these have to be priority for temporary installations to keep car pollution down, and who knows maybe some of these temporary installations will stick and we will have new generations of cyclists on school runs.
Of course if you do have significant road or pavement problems then we would always recommend you directly contact your council directly, but it can’t do any harm to add comments to this tool to make your wider community aware.
We hope this tool stays and is developed in the long term. We think it could be used to record the progress by Councils in tackling the community raised local issues. We would like to see dates of the entries/comments, and it would be great to create some green tick flags with comments and upvotes to show what changes have actually been achieved by the Councils, even where these are temporary installations.
We are not the only ones who like the Widen My Path website. “I love it”, wrote Brian Deegan of Urban Movement. Well that’s a good enough recommendation for us.