Which factors affect street walkability?
When deciding which factors make a street more or less walkable a range of existing research was considered.
In an assessment of ‘preconditions for walking’ summarised by the Pedestrian Quality Needs project (2010), the top ten factors which ordinary people thought were essential for a walkable street were:
1. Perception of safety and security;
2. Cleanliness of the streets / efficiency of garbage collection;
3. Actual traffic speed;
4. Number of street lights;
5. Width of the sidewalks;
6. Quality of street lights;
7. Accessibility of sidewalks;
8. Crossing points;
9. Respect of speed limits;
10. Number of seats.
In a similar study for Transport for London (2008) the top fifteen ‘motivations to increase walking’ were identified by participants as:
1. New and improved walks for pleasure (73%);
2. New and improved public spaces with seating (70%);
3. New and improved crossing facilities at junctions (70%);
4. Upgrading footbridges to make them easier to use (69%);
5. If the environment were more accessible for people of all mobilities (67%);
6. Replacing subways and footbridges with street-level crossings (65%);
7. If there were improved walking routes to key destinations (65%);
8. If pedestrians were given greater priority by reducing motor traffic (64%);
9. Wider footways (63%);
10. If there was better wayfinding, pedestrian signage and directions (60%);
11. If there were more facilities in my local area (60%);
12. If the pavements were cleaner (59%);
13. If I had better information on walks (57%);
14. If there were more shops in my local area (57%);
15. If pavements were less cluttered with signs and street furniture (48%).
Another study on ‘Indicators of Activity-Friendly Communities’ (2006) reviewed existing literature and identified 230 potential indicators for walking and cycling friendly neighbourhoods. Of these indicators the factors relating to walkable streets included:
- Presence of public art, interesting natural, architectural, historical features;
- Presence of benches or places to rest;
- Presence of desirable destinations;
- Presence of foul air from cars and factories;
- Social disorder (crime and anti-social behaviour);
- Physical environment (transportation barriers);
- Availability and accessibility of competitive transportation facilities (e.g., sidewalks, transit);
- Traffic signals (long delay, not enough crossing time, no signal or crosswalk);
- Traffic too fast (speeding, running traffic lights, difficult to cross street);
- Street design and circulation patterns;
Drawing upon this existing research, the key factors were combined into eight categories for the Walkonomics rating system:
- Road safety;
- Easy to cross;
- Fear of crime;
- Smart and beautiful;
- Fun and relaxing.
These are described in more detail in the next section.
What the Walkonomics rating categories mean:
Road safety: This includes both perceived and actual safety of pedestrians from vehicles on a street. It is effected by actual road accident statistics (where available), street type, traffic speeds and activity.
Easy to cross: How easy it is to cross the street at regular points along the street? It is influenced by the traffic activity on the street, street width, physical barriers and provision of pedestrian crossings.
Pavements /Sidewalks: Are pavements/sidewalks provided along the street? Are they high quality? Are they wide enough? Do they have a lot of unnecessary clutter/furniture on them? Are they overcrowded?
Hilliness: Is the street flat or on a hill/slope? How steep is any slope? If the street is steep, then are any hand-rails or seats provided?
Navigation: How easy is it to find your way around in this street and area? Is it easy to become lost here? Are any street names, pedestrian signs or maps provided?
Fear of crime: How safe do you feel from crime on this street? It is influenced by actual crime statistics (where available) as well as perceived fear or crime. Other factors include lighting, vandalism, graffiti and presence of police.
Smart and beautiful: How clean is the street? Is there much litter or vandalism? Is it regularly cleaned? Does the street have any trees or other green vegetation? Are the buildings attractive and in good condition?
Fun and relaxing: Is this a fun, interesting and popular place to be? Are there things to do in this street? Would you choose to spend time and hang-out here? Does the street have a relaxing atmosphere? Is it noisy or stressful? Can you play in this street?
Methorst R., Monterde i Bort H., Risser R., Sauter D., Tight M. & Walker J. (Eds.) (2010) Pedestrians' Quality Needs. Final Report of the COST project 358, Cheltenham, UK: Walk21, URL: http://www.walkeurope.org/final_report/default.asp
Ramirez, et al. (2006) ‘Indicators of Activity-Friendly Communities: An Evidence-Based Consensus Process’ in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 31:6, Pages 515-524, Dec 2006, URL: http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/PIIS0749379706003059/fulltext
Transport for London (2008) Attitudes to walking 2008 – Research Report, London, UK, URL: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/businessandpartners/attitudes-to-walking-2008-research-report.pdf