I met with Jamie Wallace of Walkit.com last week. Walkit.com provides urban walking directions with an explicit ‘modal shift’ agenda – the site provides directions and journey time estimates, together with calculations as to how much carbon you’ve saved and how many calories you’ve burned. It also provides alternative routes if you want a quieter walk, together with the ability to set your walking speed. Walkit is a small (six-person), privately owned start-up.
It provides walking guides for 25 cities in the UK, having added about one a month since 2005. It receives some funding from local authorities and about 10% of its revenue comes from advertising, via The Guardian’s greenadnetwork.
It has built its technology from the ground up, including its own routing algorithms and software, and even its own pedestrian routing data – created from aerial photographs and verified in person on foot, at a time when the main digitised map vendors only offered datasets for drivers. This is still a problem for some Google Map walking routes, or at least was a few weeks ago.
The site has a slightly retro feel, and thus far Web 2.0 seems to have largely passed it by; there has been little attempt to build any sort of community or allow user-contributed content. It doesn’t work properly on mobiles yet – something of a shame, given the use case. There are plans to redress these defects, with a premium version of the site in preparation. Nevertheless it has respectable traffic volumes. It generates 160,000 routes per month and attracts 85,000 unique users every month.