Get Extra Nature With This Mapping App That Guides You Down The Most Tree-Lined Route

Greenery makes you happier, and now you can change up your commute to get as much as possible.

People who live near parks and come across nature on a regular basis tend to be happier than people not exposed to those things, research shows. So it makes sense to consider the trees you’ll encounter as you navigate a city.


That’s what a new version of Walkonomics does. The app, which we wrote about previously, tells you the most tree-lined route from point A to B. And it covers seven cities: London (central), Paris, New York (all boroughs), San Francisco, Toronto, Buenos Aires, and Glasgow.

“Parks and tree-filled streets are like magnets to the algorithm. It’s like having a friend who’s obsessed with trees,” says British developer Adam Davies.

Davies developed the new feature after becoming a father and wanting to find pleasant walks to take with his son. “When he was a newborn baby, I was often taking him out in the pram, and he really liked tree-lined areas. Whenever he wasn’t seeing trees, he was crying. So, I was thinking it would be useful to know where all the trees are in the local area,” he says.

The app has a slider with “beautiful” at one end and “fast” at the other. If you’re on vacation and have plenty of time, you might take a long route, so you set it to beautiful. If you’re commuting, you might have less time, but still want a little de-stressing before the workday. So, you set it to fast.

The underlying data comes from mixture of open city sources (there’s a lot of tree mapping happening) and aerial photos of urban canopies. Other projects assess the prettiness of routes using different methods–for example, by analyzing thousands of Flickr photos.

Davies has added other new features as well, including more functionality to his “walkhood” concept. That lets you map a five-minute walk from any point, and to understand what stores, bars and restaurants are within an area. Eventually, he’d like the app to plan for all kinds of questions, including the safest route, the cleanest route, and the hilliest.


About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.