Build a website
“Don’t underestimate the challenge of making a free to user website stack up financially” That’s the advice Jamie Wallace would like to give anyone who wants to follow his footsteps and use the internet to make the world a better place. Jamie is the founder and director of walkit.com, a route planner for city walkers. The website will draw you a map between two locations, giving you a choice of the most direct or a less busy route. In central London you can even opt for a less polluted route. You are also told how long the journey will take, depending on your speed, how many calories you’ll burn and how much carbon dioxide you’ll prevent from being emitted.
I have known Jamie for a long time. We studied Environmental Technology together at Imperial College in 1996/1997. In about 2000 Jamie started talking about the walkit.com idea as a way to encourage more sustainable lifestyles. In the early days Jamie worked on the site alongside working for a sustainability charity called Forum for the Future. Since April 2007 Jamie has devoted himself to walkit full-time. With no other income to rely on, this has made the financial sustainability of the site even more critical. 50,000 unique visitors come to the site every month and generate 110,000 routes in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Gateshead. Soon the people of Leeds, Glasgow and Aberdeen will also be able to create walkit routes and several other cities are in the pipeline.
By encouraging people to walk like this, Jamie is not only contributing to the reduction of climate change, he’s probably making the commuting lives of thousands of people much more bearable. Not surprising then that the walkit team have won several awards already for their work and that their user numbers keep soaring. For the time being, the focus of Jamie and his team is to get as big as possible. “Everyone says if you’re huge you can make it work financially. But how do you get huge? You can’t get there until you’ve brought in the money.” It’s a Catch 22 but Jamie is not dispirited. He clearly loves the independence of working on his own project and with so much positive feedback on the site, it’s hard to believe that they won’t succeed. A big injection of cash would help, but for now local governments around the UK are a solid source of income. The site is a wonderfully practical idea so hopefully walkit will continue to help to relieve our streets of traffic for many years to come.