Why do people walk in the suburbs?

January 29, 2014


South Norwood town centre – traces of routes taken by individuals surveyed in the town centre vicinity in September 2008

The Adaptable Suburbs project has just published a working paper: the outcome of a pilot study on how patterns of walking in and around suburban town centres correspond to their morphology and land use patterns.

Most current research which looks at how planning and urban design can contribute to walkability compares built environment measures such as connectivity, diversity and land use. This working paper contributes to this domain by reporting on a pilot study which used space syntax measures of route choice to analyse self-reported walked routes and planned activities within three outer London suburban neighborhoods. Using a bespoke questionnaire on a wide array of activities coupled with self-reported route traces the study relates the through-movement potential of the street network to the intensity of routes and land use diversity through each of the three areas. Using data on people’s reasons for walking and actual routes, adjusting for differences between different groups of users, the aim was to see whether urban configuration affects patterns of movement in the suburban realm.

The findings show that route availability is associated with increased walking along routes with ‘active’ land uses, notwithstanding the variety of activities taken during a walk. They also reveal clear differences in usage patterns and trip length according to the degree of familiarity with the area as well as the location of physical barriers to walking routes, such as railway lines. Greater use of green spaces is found to be associated with their integration into the spatial network and local inter-visibility. The findings also tentatively suggest that routes with increased network centrality are more likely to be used for multi-purpose trips. The results suggest that improved planning and design can increase walking in an area, leading both to local vitality as well as potentially to the health of individuals.

It can be downloaded free from the project website.


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