This app helps you avoid crowded streets on your social distance walks

Toronto-based MapinHood is like Google Maps for pedestrians with a focus on accessibility. Now it also helps with physical distancing

Early in May, the city of Toronto shifted its COVID-19 public health messaging from “stay home” to a more permissive stance: go outside, but keep your distance. More specifically, leave two metres of space between you and anyone not from your household. 

But for anyone who’s weaved through the unmasked masses ambling down to the waterfront or anywhere near Trinity Bellwoods Park since the temperature has soared above 20 degrees, maintaining a distance is just about impossible – especially on a humid spring day. 

MapinHood has a solution for that. The route-making map app has introduced a “Social Distance Mode” that will help direct you on your walk to avoid the busy streets. 

social distancing mode mapinhood.jpeg

The app was created by Toronto-based iMerciv, with support from the Microsoft AI for Accessibility program. It’s basically an alternative to Google or Apple’s native maps apps designed for pedestrians, with a focus on accessibility. It will create routes based on your criteria – you can avoid stairs or dark streets, broken glass or construction. Users can also tag points of interest, like street murals, statues or amenities like bicycle parking, ATMs and public bathrooms for others to rate and see on their own maps.

But, like so many other companies during this pandemic, it’s taken on new functions to suit the current times. Social distance mode uses historic pedestrian foot traffic data, so it doesn’t update in real time, but it’s good at creating winding routes that will take you down normally quiet streets.

As for “quiet streets” – the city’s own designated streets closed to local traffic, cyclists and pedestrians as part of its ActiveTO program (along with its CurbTO program, which creates pedestrian zones) – MapinHood factors those into your routes, too. 

The app will soon introduce a Round Trip mode, which lets you set a timed route to and from your house. There will also be a Line Up feature that estimates wait times at grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurant, which will be updated in real time.


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