Sunday, 9 November 2008

Ministry of Silly Walks

A few weeks ago the Evening Post reported the launch of a new web site,, giving walking routes between places in and around Bristol. You can choose the most direct route or a less 'busy' one to avoid traffic. It even tells you the distance, likely journey time and how many calories you burn up and how many kilograms of CO2 you 'save' in the process.

All the power of modern computing dedicated to making route finding a piece of cake. So much better than just pointing yourself in the right direction and hoping for the best. Err, actually no. The database is so sloppily prepared that it often dishes up the most absurd routes that even an inebriate staggering back from a pub crawl would be hard put to rival.

Many hours of amusement can be had putting the site to the test, so I've decided to launch a competition to find the most absurd walking routes. The prizes will be £10 vouchers for consumer goodies from a Clifton deli, one prize will be for the 'direct' walking route with the highest ratio between the walkit route and the real world direct route and the other prize will be for the most 'entertaining' walkit route in terms of its failure to identify the best available walking routes. Competition entries can be posted as a comment below.

Here's my entry for highest ratio of walkit distance compared to reality. It's a 2 km walk from Pill to Shirehampton, which of course can be made via the Avonmouth Bridge (above) in about 20 minutes. But not if you follow walkit, which will send you on a 3 hour, 14 km trek via the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which gives a walkit/reality distance ration of 7! That's good but not necessarily unbeatable. Remember it's the ratio that scores, not the distance differential, so quite short walks can and often do throw up equal absurdities.

And here's my entry for the most entertaining category. It's from Temple Meads station to Princess Street in the Dings, just the other side of the River Avon, and as we all know there's an almost perfectly straight link between the two using the Dings Railway Path (above) and the Cheesegrater Bridge, but walkit send us on a much more entertaining route around the houses, doubling the distance and of course the calories consumed, so they obviously have our best interests at heart.

But before you get carried away with the idea of calculating your annual calorie consumption and/or carbon savings you might like to compare a journey from say the bottom of Park Street to the top, and then the other way around. Yes, you guessed it - the calorie consumption figure is the same. In other words the site takes no account of gradients, which in a city like Bristol is quite a significant consideration.

I hear that the same bunch of incompetents who cobbled together the walkit site are now working on a cycling site, presumably to be called bikeit. This should be even more amusing if previous risible efforts are anything to go by.


Mike Armstrong said...

Who pays these idiots?

There seems to be an entire layer of society given over to providing bad advice!

Bit like astrology really...

all the best


greenwash-hunter said...

For more greenwash look carefully at ecojam.
Looks a bit upmarket but ecojam says that the overall message was that Ecojam would be a very useful resource for communities to up-to-date each other of their activities and communicate to the public.
Really? so where are all the stimulating blogs by active members of the community like greengage, glenn vowles, chris hutt, bristol blogger etc?

Chris Hutt said...

I blogged about one of ecojam's blogs a while back -

As you say GH it's an intellectual curiosity free zone over at ecojam, as befits a product of Bristol University. Another piece of vacuous hype like so much else jostling for space under the Green umbrella.

Actually I and other local bloggers had emails last week from ecojam. They're hunting for links. I think I'll tell them straight I only link to interesting web sites.

j.wallace said...


Thanks for pointing out the missing Cheesegrater Bridge. We’ve now added it in. We haven't yet been able to confirm how far north the Dings path goes, but will do this as soon as we can.

I’m afraid we don’t currently have the appropriate data to correct the Avonmouth Bridge issue as it’s in an outlying area. We’re going through a redesign at the moment and we’ll see if we can make it clearer the area of each city for which we can implement route improvements.

If you, or your readers, alert us to further (more central) missing paths and links, we’ll endeavour to put them right too.

We're hoping to include incline data next year - we can then give more precise calorie figures.


Chris Hutt said...

Jamie, doesn't it occur to you to engage the services of someone local when you develop these sites - someone who knows what's where locally?

There are dozens of similar errors on your database that I was able to identify in an hour or so. I'm not going to tell you where because I think you've got a bloody cheek launching the product without doing the basic research first, expecting local users to do it for you, free of charge.

Just imagine the public reaction if you tried the same scam with a road map for motorists. But because it's for walkers you seem to think you can get away with shoddy preparation.