Whether they’re crumbling from poor maintenance or being turn up by tree roots, it’s no secret that the sidewalks in Westchester are in need of some major repair. But junior Mukta Mohan has developed an assessment tool that will help expedite repairs and serve as a model for other cities.
“Sidewalks play such a pivotal role in society,” said Mohan, a communication studies major. “They represent a social justice issue that gives mobility to some and takes it away from others.”
The first challenge in Los Angeles is identifying which portions of its 11,000 miles of sidewalks need repair. Last year, the City Council called for a three-year, $10 million survey. Mohan figured she could do better.
First, she reviewed existing guidelines on sidewalk maintenance and then created an evaluation tool of her own based on three common key factors: location identification, distress identification, and priority rating. She then conducted pilot studies in two areas of Westchester, where volunteers uploaded photos and GPS information from a smart phone into a database.
“Sidewalks don’t seem like the most interesting things to research,” Mohan said. “But this is not limited to a piece of concrete on the ground. It’s a practical way to create social change.”
The pilot study showed the evaluation tool was more efficient than expected and user-friendly as well. Mohan plans to develop the tool into a self-contained app and conduct more pilot tests around Los Angeles. Eventually, she hopes that cities around the country will hire community members to use the app and conduct evaluations and make repairs as needed.
“I see a lot of potential in my project and truly believe that it can change the way citizens interact with their communities,” Mohan said. “It can address the power dynamics that broken sidewalks create and help local government use technology to work with community members.”