Pedestrians face significant health risks when traversing a pathway that has not been maintained or was poorly designed. One in three older adults (>65 years) experiences a fall each year, many of which occur outdoors. The result costs the U.S. $30 billion in direct medical costs annually. Falls are the most common reason for traumatic brain injuries among adults and children. Among wheelchair users, tips and falls are the most common source of injury and they occur most frequently when the wheelchair user is traversing outdoor terrains that are not flat. Additionally, wheelchair users are subjected to unhealthy levels of vibration exposure due to rough pathways, and are twice as likely to suffer from back and neck pain. Wheelchair users cite the environment as a significant barrier to their social participation, second only behind problems with their wheelchairs. These adverse pathway conditions (APCs) translate into reduced social participation.
Another challenge that pedestrians face is the uncertainty of the path that is ahead of them. Is there a sidewalk? Are there curb ramps? Are there clearly marked crosswalks? How accessible/walkable is the path? Common pedestrian navigation tools, such as Google Maps, Apple, or Bing, use the roadway to navigate pedestrians rather than the sidewalk. At times, a person could be directed down a road that has no sidewalks. Furthermore, they do not know about the quality of the path.
pathVu’s pedestrian navigation tool solves this problem. pathVu provides the user with the most accessible route that contains sidewalks, crosswalks, curb ramps, and limits tripping hazards. This route is tailored to the user’s specific needs and settings. If a user wants to travel a route that has a curb ramp at each intersection, the route will include curb ramps. By selecting the route that limits tripping hazards, older adults will be less susceptible to dangerous conditions that could cause them to fall. This will also help older adults to become more active in the community to live healthier lives by increased walking. Similarly, this applies to wheelchair users and all other pedestrians. A prototype of the pathVu navigation tool has been developed. The initial launch will be available for all computer and smartphone users via a website. Future versions will be included in the pathVu mobile app. This version will alert pedestrians by vibration and sound as they approach a hazard.
The data used for routing can also be used to prioritize improvements to the sidewalk infrastructure. Pedestrians can use pathVu’s data and navigation tools to advocate to their local government for improved sidewalks. One of pathVu’s goals is to work with cities and municipalities to manage their sidewalks and get the problems fixed. Through the use of this data, we can help eliminate the original problem…tripping hazards and dangerous sidewalks.
Data collection tools
PathMeT: PathMeT is a manually propelled stroller-like device that pathVu uses to collect high resolution, highly accurate data about sidewalks and pathways. Data includes: tripping hazards, running slope, cross slope, roughness, location, and images.
pathVu App: The pathVu app is a free crowdsourcing tool that allows pedestrians to report sidewalk conditions, such as tripping hazards, curb ramp locations, construction, etc. The pathVu app is free for Android and iPhone smartphones. It will allow us to scale our routing functionality quickly to different cities.
CLICK HERE for an interactive map of sample data.
Our prototype (see image under Solution above) is a navigation tool that takes into account sidewalk, crosswalk, curb ramp, and tripping hazard location. It routes a pedestrian along the sidewalk/crosswalk paths and around potentially hazardous conditions. This prototype is based on the user feedback that knowing sidewalk location and conditions is a valuable tool in navigating sidewalks safely. The green line in the image provides the suggested route. Additional features will be added in the future. Paper maps can easily be created for non-internet users.
The prototype has not yet been published for public use.
- Aging Your Way (http://www.swppa.org/agefriendly/)
- Lively Pittsburgh (http://livelypittsburgh.com/)
- Multiple Sclerosis Society (http://www.nationalmssociety.org/)
- Community Living and Support Services (https://www.classcommunity.org/)
- Oakland For All (http://oaklandforall.org/)
- Oakland Transportation Management Association (http://www.otma-pgh.org/)
- Innovation Works (https://www.innovationworks.org/)
pathVu was part of The Crossings project to promote safe intersection crossings, hosted by Aging Your Way and Lively Pittsburgh.
pathVu and Lively Pittsburgh conducting a "walkability study" in the East Liberty neighborhood through use of the pathVu app.