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Helsinki unveils app to help cyclists and pedestrians avoid pollution

Cycling in Helsinki can literally be a breath of fresh air with the Green Paths app.

City of Helsinki

The Green Paths route-planning app delivers cyclists and pedestrians recommendations based on real-time data on air quality and noise levels in various parts of the metropolitan area, enabling them to avoid the busiest, noisiest and most polluted routes and reach their destination as quickly as possible.

Developed by a research team at the University of Helsinki as part of a project coordinated by the City of Helsinki and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the prototype app presently functions in all municipalities where the necessary data is available: Espoo, Helsinki, Kauniainen and Vantaa.

What sets the app apart from most of its counterparts is its ability to consider not only the distance and duration, but also the pleasantness and health impact, of the journey.

“By guiding cyclists and pedestrians to more pleasant environments, the route planner aims to promote health and wellbeing among city residents,” said Age Poom, a researcher at the University of Helsinki. “We hope that it will also steer urban traffic towards responsibility and sustainability in terms of climate.”

The app makes use of assessments of environmental exposure to suggest route options ranging from the shortest and quickest one to longer and healthier ones. It utilises open environmental data, road traffic noise modellings from the municipalities and Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), and air-quality data from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI).

The source code has been published openly to enable other developers to take into account environmental cost factors in their travel applications, according to software developer Joose Helle.

The app is available in both Finnish and English.

The Green Path app gives route options based on duration, distance and the difference in noise levels. Image: Screen capture / Green Paths web app
By: Aleksi Teivainen