Scalable Techniques to Study the Equitable Distribution and Condition of Sidewalks across the US

PI: Jon Froehlich (UW),, ORCID: 0000-0001-8291-3353

Co PIs: none

AMOUNT & MATCH: $75,000 federal from PacTrans; $75,000 federal Match

PERFORMANCE PERIOD: 8/16/2023 – 8/15/2025

STATUS: Active

CATEGORIES: Sidewalks, Public Transportation, Mobility


FINAL PROJECT REPORT: will be available once completed

PROJECT DATA: will be available once completed

DESCRIPTION: Sidewalks form the backbone of cities: at their best, they provide a safe, off-road pathway for pedestrians, support environmentally friendly mobility, help interconnect mass transportation services like bus and rail, and promote local commerce and recreation. For people with disabilities, accessible sidewalks provide even more critical support for mobility, physical health, and overall quality of life. And yet, unlike their road counterparts, there is a lack of high-quality sidewalk datasets and fast, inexpensive, and reliable sidewalk assessment techniques—which fundamentally limits how we study and plan equitable urban infrastructure and mobility.

Highlighting this data disparity, in a stratified sample of 178 US cities, while 90% of cities published were found to have street data, only 34% had data on sidewalks, and even fewer included curb ramps, sidewalk condition, and obstructions. Examining ADA accessibility in US cities, only 54 of 401 municipalities (13%) studied were found to have published sidewalk transition plans and only seven met the minimum ADA criteria. In a smaller, independent interview study of government officials, PI Froehlich et al. identified that cities struggle with sidewalk data collection, community engagement, resource provisioning, and insufficient analysis tools. This lack of data and tools for sidewalks fundamentally limits scientific research in urban mobility and equitability, the ability for communities, advocacy groups, and local governments to understand, transparently discuss, and make informed planning decisions, and how sidewalks are incorporated into everyday mapping tools like Google Maps.

In this proposal, building on extensive preliminary work by this research team, we propose two overarching aims: first, to extend our research on scalable techniques to locate and assess sidewalks using crowdsourcing and artificial intelligence (Crowd+AI) by comparing our crowdsourced data to official government datasets; second, to advance understanding of the geospatial equity of sidewalks and their condition. Our recent successes with Project Sidewalk—a remote sidewalk data collection tool that combines crowdsourcing and computer vision to map sidewalks and their condition developed by PI Froehlich—serves as the key enabler of our grant.

Research Project Progress Report #1 10/10/2024
Research Project Progress Report #2 4/10/2025
No Cost Extension Request 6/15/2025
Draft Report 6/15/2025
Final Project Report 7/15/2025