ITHACA, N.Y. –– As wintry weather continues, the City of Ithaca has partnered with students at Cornell University to develop a new app that encourages neighbors to pitch in to clear sidewalk corners and ensure safety for pedestrians.

“Ithaca Snow Angels” as it’s called, is a web app intended to facilitate the generous behavior that many Ithacans show during the winter, connecting physically fit snow shovelers in our community with snowed-in corners that do not typically get cleared as they are not directly in front of residences and may take a while to get cleared by the city’s limited crews. Ithaca Snow Angels looks to promote this behavior by making it a sort of fun competition –– seeing who can climb the leader board or get to a snowy corner first. This process of making ordinary tasks a source of entertainment is known as “gamification.”

“I was listening to a podcast and they did an episode about the City Bike Angel program, and it was talking all about gamification and getting people to move bikes around in New York City. And something clicked for me,” said Dan Cogan, City of Ithaca chief of staff. “I thought that something like that might be appealing to people. I thought it would give people an ability to have friendly competitions with their neighbors.”

The app itself was developed in part by students at Cornell who created a prototype before passing the torch to the city’s GIS (Geographic Information System) department which came up with the final product. Cogan says he hopes the community will engage with the app and provide meaningful feedback to make it work.

“We had tested it and worked out some of the bugs and we thought we put it out there and see if the community would respond. And, you know, we know that it’s kind of a version 1.0, sort of a proof of concept if you will,” Cogan said.

For those interested in participating, navigate to the Ithaca Snow Angels web app to get started. (Additional links below. And be sure to allow locations in your browser.)

If you don’t want to or can’t shovel yourself, the program relies on “reporters” as well as shovelers, so anyone can help out. If you see a corner curb in need of clearing simply find the corner on the map, click “REQUEST A SNOW ANGEL,” take a photo of the spot, and you have logged the corner as a reporter. The corner will be flagged with a red pin and listed as in need of a Snow Angel.

Snow Angels looking to help out with shoveling will be alerted to shovel the corner, or you can clear it yourself. Then snap a shot of the cleared curb cut for approval and earn points and climb the leaderboard.

According to Cogan, the city would love to hear from organizations such as gyms, clubs, and neighborhood organizations that might be interested in hosting friendly competitions. Any feedback from such organizations or from single users of the app can be sent to the Ithaca Snow Angels Team at snowangels@cityofithaca.org

For more information visit the Ithaca Snow Angels Website here.

Additional links can be found here:

Ithaca Snow Angels App:
ithacamaps.org/snowangels

Ithaca Snow Angels App Shortcuts:
bit.ly/shovelithaca
bit.ly/crosswalkfit

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com