Good news, I have conducted a very unscientific survey (while walking, of course) and can provide the inputs for an algorithm to identify the best-shoveled sidewalk route.
For starters there are sidewalks that should definitely be avoided as they are the least likely to be cleared after a storm. For instance:
- Cross-walk access. Yes, definitely the most unlikely of snow-blocked routes, yet time after time while the sidewalk was clear and the street was clear, crossing the street would lead the walker straight into a significant snow-encounter.
- Post-offices— clearly the postal service has enough to do to reduce costs without focusing on clearly sidewalks.
- Gas stations— pretty obvious one here as their only goal is to get cars in and out so the easiest place to pile up the snow is one the sidewalk. Honestly, why would anyone want to walk by a gas station?
- Strip malls— serious uncleared sidewalkinto their mall. Draw the walkers in and maybe they’ll stay to shop.
- Seriously, in the photo at left, the sidewalk goes to the right of the shrubbery along the street. The cleared walkway in the left part of the photo goes along the strip mall and soon turns left, away from the sidewalk.
While those are spots to definitely be avoided, I need Google to find sidewalks that run in front of the following establishments:
- Places of worship— possibly due to their charitable nature or possibly to help new followers find the path to follow, literally, their sidewalks are among the first cleared post-storm.
- Train platforms— actually train tracks were far and away the most tempting route for my walk other than the high likelihood of meeting a train traveling at far greater speeds and with far greater mass than I, but that’s a physics problem for XKCD. So, Google, no need to include any well-cleared railroad tracks for my route. However, the platforms along train tracks are definitely fair game— well-cleared and wide enough for walking side-by-side with a friend.
- Libraries offer another wide-path alternative— wide enough for a double stroller to easily make it past. Perhaps there’s a high correlation between book borrowers and winter stroller walkers.
- Pizza parlors were a surprising find in the clear-sidewalk category. The sidewalks around the local pizza house were not only well cleared to the door, they were down to pavement all the way around. Shoveling might be a good way to cool off after standing in front of a hot pizza oven.
- Finally, considerate home owners. Identifying who might actually take the time to shovel using only the data available from a Google map is a little tricky.
At first I thought I saw a correlation between homes with porches and shoveled walks, but alas that quickly faded farther from the town center. Perhaps home-owners with driveways would be more likely to shovel their walk as they were already out clearing a driveway. That too proved a dead-end, perhaps they were too tired from shoveling the driveway.
Then I saw it— homes with a front door painted in a contrasting color to the rest of the house are far more likely to have a clear sidewalk out front than other houses. I didn’t come up with a reasonably hypothesis on why this would be, but with Google street view, front door paint color can often be discerned. If the color contrasts with the siding, trim and shutters then voilà! Add that house to my walking route.
So Google, just maximize walking past homes with contrasting front doors, pizza parlors, libraries, train platforms and houses of worship, while minimizing strip malls, gas stations, post offices and major intersections that need to be crossed. How hard could that be?