Accessibility and mobility within the urban environment has been dictated by the design and layout of buildings and road infrastructure. Both, in their separate ways, have created problems of safety and crime which have conspired to limit pedestrian confidence and therefore movement and travel choice amongst particular groups. Benchmarking of accessibility does not tend to reflect everyday journeys and trips taken or desired, and the perceptual barriers felt by many people. This article reports on a five year research study into accessibility, urban design and social inclusion (AUNT-SUE), funded under the EPSRC's Sustainable Urban Environment programme. The development and validation of a street design index and evaluation of routes is presented through a test bed case study based on user consultation with groups experiencing barriers to pedestrian access, 'fear of crime' and therefore to engagement with the transport system and wider social inclusion. This involves the use of GIS-participation techniques and map walks with residents, integrated with digital data analysis and visualization of the whole journey environment. Particular attention is paid to the mobility and journey needs of users, as well as perceptual and safety issues, since these present some of the major barriers to transport access for vulnerable groups.
The ground floors of buildings are a key element of the urban experience, yet the dynamics that shape frontages are largely unknown. This article delves into the forces and patterns behind the transforming relationship between architecture and public space in Western urban cores over the past century. After defining a methodology for structurally measuring the interactivity of ground floor frontages over time, the study focuses on two case study urban cores of Detroit, Michigan and The Hague, Netherlands. Through a combination of narra- tive historiography, detailed mapping and statistical studies a set of recommendations is generated to help urban designers and planners better understand and counter frontage decline. The two seemingly disparate cities are demonstrated to have undergone remarkably similar patterns of frontage interactivity erosion, with outcomes diverging as a result of an often reinforcing set of forces. Only upon understanding frontages as social, economic, cultural, political and technological constructs with physical, functional and connotative effects on public space will the profession be able to effectively steer the future of the architecture of public life.
Porta, S., Romice, O., Maxwell, J. A., Russell, P., & Baird, D.
This paper presents a morphological study of 100 main street networks from urban areas around the world. An expansion in the scale of main street networks was revealed using a unique heuristic visual method for identifying and measuring the lengths of main street segments from each of the study areas. Case studies were selected and grouped according to corresponding urban design paradigms, ranging from antiquity to present day. This research shows that the average lengths of main street segments from networks of historic (i.e. ancient, medieval, renaissance, baroque and industrial) and informal case studies are much smaller relative to those from networks of more contemporary case studies (i.e. Garden City, Radiant City and New Urbanism). This study provides empirical evidence in support of prior, observational claims suggesting a consistent pattern in the smaller scale of main street networks from traditional urban areas, termed the ‘400-metre rule’. Additionally, it makes the case for further empirical research into similarly recursive spatial patterns within other elements of urban form (i.e. plots, blocks, etc.) that, if discovered, could aid in future urban design efforts to help provide the framework for more ‘human-scale’ urban environments.
High street shopping centres are at the core of cities. The continuing design challenge is to adapt a built environment inheritance to meet the present commercial needs of retailers, maximize the potential of the physical environment and address the social amenities that are expected from a city/town centre public realm. This paper addresses the question of what makes a successful high street shopping centre and seeks to understand the relationship between property values, location, physical characteristics, diversity of retailing and use, and social vitality in two successful city centre retailing environments. The research also demonstrates the blurring between commercial and public space, and supports Carmona’s argument that successful social space also creates economic value.
Journal of the American Planning Association (1995)
In the 1970s, the Dutch city of Delft adopted a new residential street layout. Its fundamental concept was the antithesis of the notion of segregating pedestrians and vehicles. It emphasized integration of traffic and pedestrian activity as a positive principle for street planning. The shared street approach was later systematized by local agencies and given legal status by the national government. This new concept has drawn global attention, and similar street designs are appearing not only in Europe, but also in Japan, Australia, and Israel. The shared street concept's adaptability to different countries and societies reinforces its status as a valid, flexible choice for residential street layouts. Studies and surveys of shared streets in these countries have found considerable reductions in traffic accidents, increased social interaction and play, and a high degree of satisfaction by the residents. The available data and the successful implementation of the shared street in other countries can foster its acceptance in the United States. In particular, shared streets could be a workable alternative to the prevailing street layouts in new suburban subdivisions.
Creating “community” has long been a goal of urban planners. Although such rhetoric abounds in planning circles, what it all means is unclear. In this article, the authors review the community psychology and urban plan- ning literature, defining sense of community within the context of how the built environment might facilitate or impede it. They then present their research, which tests the effects of “main street” on sense of community in four San Francisco neighborhoods. Results indicate that respondents in neighborhoods exhibiting characteristics of a main street town (Bernal Heights and West Portal) have significantly higher sense of community than do respondents from a high-density neighborhood (Nob Hill) and from a more suburban-style city neighborhood (Sunset).
We explore whether there is evidence of property rights among the homeless, and if so, how these rights are governed. By conducting interviews with 52 homeless people in Cape Town, we show that although the homeless are able to derive some value from assets, and can exclude other members of their community, these rights are precarious and dependent upon state agents not seizing the ‘property’ and overriding the community’s rules of the game. We demonstrate the intersectionality of claims with respect to the same physical property from the varying perspectives of the claimants involved and how this differs depending on the property. Homeless people rely on a community logic to develop rules of the game which results in the appearance of a market logic. In the absence of formal institutions effectively operating in their spaces, they have constituted social norms which provide some semblance of property rights respected intra-group.
The paper explores the extent to which inhabitants of Abu Dhabi find ways circumvent official notions of order as it pertains to the use of open public spaces in the city. To that effect, the study focuses on informal modes of urbanity examining and mapping various forms of informal activities that still persist in the city. The study relies on field research carried out in Abu Dhabi's central area, content analysis of media reports, and interviews with officials and city residents. This will be contextualized and situated within the overall urban development Abu Dhabi. These contemporary modes of informal urbanism will be mapped through a survey of the city's public spaces. A series of vignettes offers a portrayal of the diverse ways in which residents have constructed an alternative order. The overall aim is to construct a 'narrative of informality'—a view from below offering a more substantive assessment of people's interaction with, and relation to, the built environment. The paper begins with a theoretical framework aiming at situating the study within the overall discourse known as 'informal urbanism' the study of the everyday which, while prevalent to various degrees within urban theory, has been receiving renewed emphasis. The overall value for mapping activities both at the level of urban theory and for the urban development of Dhabi is discussed in the conclusion.
Journal of the American Planning Association (2007)
Bosselman, P and MacDonald, E
This article evaluates the livability of residential boulevards, a type of street that has center lanes for through traffic and local access lanes separated from the center lanes by landscaped “malls.” Three boulevards were studied. All three carried high traffic volumes but were rated as more livable than neigh- boring, conventionally designed streets with medium traffic volumes. The study concludes that boulevards with a side median design successfully mitigate the adverse impacts of heavy traffic. The re- search methods used for this study were based on the well-known 1969 “Livable Streets” project by Donald Appleyard and Mark Lintell. Like the original study, it compared the re- sponses of residents on streets with high, medium, and low traffic volumes and measured the effects of traffic on social interaction, perceptions of home territory, and the comfort of peo- ple’s daily lives. The new study shows trends similar to those found in the original one and adds information about boulevards, which were not pre- viously examined.
The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (1980)
Streets have become dangerous, unlivable environments, yet most people live on them. Streets need to be redefined as sanctuaries; as livable places; as communities; as resident territory; as places for play, greenery, and local history. Neighborhoods should be protected, though not to the point of being exclusionary. The neighborhood unit, the environmental area and the Woonerf are examined as models for the protected neighborhood. The criteria for a protected neighborhood depend on acceptable speeds, volumes, noise levels, reduction of accidents, and rights-of-way for pedestrians.
This article discusses how street design and traffic affect social relations in urban neighbourhoods. Three street types in the city of Basel, Switzerland were studied: a 50km/h street, a 30km/h street and three encounter zones (20km/h and pedestrian priority, also known as woonerven or home zones). The effects were measured in terms of neighbourhood interactions, use of public space and the personal feelings of belonging of residents. The study, standing in the tradition of Donald Appleyard’s liveable street research in the early 1970s, was carried out in the framework programme ‘Social Inclusion and Social Exclusion’ financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation and by the Swiss Federal Office of Sports. The results show that urban neighbourhoods are (still) very lively social places, despite their often lamented anonymity and individualisation. Streets with slow moving traffic, limited space for parking and good environmental qualities offer a large potential for personal development, contentment and social integration. Neighbourhood contacts in such streets are more frequent and more intensive and the separation effects are substantially smaller. Liveable streets in urban neighbourhoods can be great places for public life and social inclusion.
Increasingly, scholars suggest thinking of the street as a social space, rather than just a channel for movement. Studies that address the relationships between social behavior and environmental quality of the street tend to separate the study of physical features from land uses and hence do not address the interrelationships between behavioral patterns and physical features of the street and its sociability. This article is an empirical examination of behavioral responses of people to the environmental quality of neighborhood commercial streets. Structured and semistructured observations are used to study stationary, lingering, and social activities on three neighborhood commercial streets. Eleven land use and physical characteristics of buildings and the street are identified based on the literature review and extensive observations. These are measured and tested to understand which characteristics support stationary, lingering, and social activities. The findings reveal that people are equally concerned with the social, land use, and physical aspects of the street. Seating provided by businesses, seating provided by the public authorities, businesses that are community places, personalized street fronts, and sidewalk width particularly contribute to stationary and social activities on neighborhood commercial streets.
In this article we aim to utilise and apply ethnomethodological and interactionist principles to the analysis of members’ situated accounts of regenerated urban space. With reference to previous empirical studies we apply membership categorization analysis and the concept of mundane reason to data gathered from situated street level interviews carried out as part of a programme of ethnographic research into the regenerated setting of Cardiff Bay. The article demonstrates that these data yield sociological insight into social actors’ interpretive and interactional reasoning in relation to the negotiation, navigation and comprehension of space and place. Through this work the patterned signatures of the urban interactional order can be identified. Furthermore, we illustrate the forms of emic rationality associated with the everyday and ubiquitous constitution of urban space as a meaningful, and thence cultural, milieu. It is our claim that an appreciation of these urban forms of reasoning is important in the ethnographic, sociological and geographical analysis of space and place.
James E. Dills, Karen G. Mumford & Candace D. Rutt
Many people fail to achieve recommended levels of physical activity. Neighborhood parks serve as locations in which physical activity often occurs, and walking to parks provides added opportunity for leisure-time activity. The authors examine environmental characteristics of shortest pedestrian routes to parks to determine how route walkability affects park use. Using an objective environmental audit, the authors found that routes of park users were measurably more walkable than those of nonpark users and that each unit increase in total walkability score associated with a 20% increase in the likelihood of walking to the park, controlling for education and route length (odds ratio = 1.20; 95% confidence interval = [1.07, 1.34]). The most significant elements measured in- cluded route distance, traffic, neighborhood maintenance, street maintenance, safety, and aesthetics. Pedestrian scale environmental characteristics are associated with individuals’ use of neighborhoods for physical activity. Understanding these relationships can contribute to evidence-based design interventions to increase physical activity.
Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) had an enormous influence on urban design theories and practices. This study aims to operationalize Jacobs's conditions for a vital urban life. These are (1) mixed use, (2) small blocks, (3) aged buildings, and (4) a sufficient concentration of buildings. Jacobs suggested that a vital urban life could be sustained by an urban realm that promotes pedestrian activity for various purposes at various times. Employing multilevel binomial models, we empirically verified that Jacobs's conditions for urban diversity play a significant role with regard to pedestrian activity.
In the past five years the numbers of enclosed neighbourhoods have significantly increased in South Africa. These are existing neighbourhoods that are closed off through gates and booms across the roads. Many of these neighbourhoods are fenced or walled off as well, with a limited number of controlled entrances/exits, manned by security guards in some cases. The roads within these neighbourhoods were previously, or still are public property and in most cases the local council is still responsible for public services to the community within the enclosed neighbourhoods. In this way public urban space is privatised, whether formally or informally. I will explore the distribution of enclosed neighbourhoods in South Africa on a national scale and within two metropolitan municipalities, viz., the cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane. Then I proceed to highlight the nature and impact of these neighbourhoods on the privatisation of public space and draw on a wide basis of empirical data obtained through a national survey and in-depth case studies. Finally I will conclude with examples of lessons learnt from South Africa and how these may relate to international experience and future research on gated communities.
The rise of mobile food vending in US cities combines urban space and mobility with continuous online communication. Unlike traditional urban spaces that are predictable and known, contemporary vendors use information technology to generate impromptu social settings in unconventional and often underutilized spaces. This unique condition requires new methods that interpret online communication as a critical component in the production of new forms of public life. We suggest qualitative approaches combined with data-driven analyses are necessary when planning for emergent behavior. In Charlotte, NC, we investigate the daily operations, tweet content, and spatial and temporal sequencing of six vendors over an extended period of time. The study illustrates the interrelationship between data, urban space, and time and finds that a significant proportion of tweet content is used to announce vending locations in a time-based pattern and that the spatial construction of events is often independent of traditional urban form.
The success of a city’s retail core is largely dependent on the composition and organization of its merchant constituents. Not only should the price-point and products of a city’s retail align with its resident and visitor demographics, but the stores should be strategically balanced to maximize consumer spending and interest. Heritage destinations dependent on the tourism market should pay special attention to this issue, assuring their visitors a valuable shopping experience while simultaneously preserving the destination’s cultural appeal. This case study considers the rapidly evolving shopping district of Charleston, South Carolina, focusing specifically on the retail core’s recent influx of chain merchants to what was once predominantly a local main street. An historical account, paired with and an in-depth survey of merchants, is presented. The research builds upon previous studies that have considered the issue of merchant mix from the perspective of the city’s stakeholders, tourists and residents.
Journal of Architectural and Planning Research (2011)
People use the neighborhood Main Street for shopping but also for other leisurely active and passive engagement, social affiliation and interaction, sensory stimulation, and relaxation. Traditionally, small businesses have made up a fair share of businesses on Main Street. Small businesses have been an integral part of the American culture of entrepreneurship, individualism, and self-reliance and have played an important role in American economic development. Community development programs recommend supporting small businesses for their social and economic benefits. This paper examines the role of small businesses in supporting public life on the neighborhood Main Street. The study was conducted in two cities and one town in the Boston, Massachusetts, metropolitan area. Extensive behavior mapping and interviews were conducted to determine the relationship between social interaction and businesses. The findings expand our understanding of the social value of small businesses and suggest a strong relationship between small businesses and the vitality of Main Street as a result of four qualities of small businesses: uniqueness, engagement, friendliness, and responsiveness. These findings have implications for urban design, community planning, and economic development policies because they suggest that small businesses influence their immediate public space by paying more attention to it than large businesses. Small businesses provide qualities that help make Main Street a good place for people to interact.
Reid Ewing, William Greene, Amir Hajrasouliha, Kathryn M. Neckerman & Marnie Purciel-Hill
By measuring twenty streetscape features and numerous other variables for 588 blocks in New York City, we were able to identify variables that explain pedestrian traffic volumes. We found significant positive correlations between three out of twenty streetscape features with pedestrian counts after controlling for density and other built environmental variables. The significant streetscape features are the proportion of windows on the street, the proportion of active street frontage, and the number of pieces of street furniture. This study provides guidance for streetscape projects that aim to create walkable streets and pedestrian-friendly environments.
This paper emerges from an ethnography of the economic and cultural life of Rye Lane, an intensely multi-ethnic street in Peckham, South London. The effects of accelerated migration into London are explored through the reshaping and diversification of its interior, street and city spaces. A ‘trans-ethnography’ is pursued across the compendium of micro-, meso- and macro-urban spaces, without reifying one above the other. The ethnographic stretch across intimate, collective and symbolic city spaces serves to connect how the restrictions and circuits of urban migration have different impacts and expressions in these distinctive but interrelated urban localities. The paper argues for a trans-ethnography that engages within and across a compendium of urban localities, to understand how accelerated migration and urban ‘super-diversity’ transform the contemporary global city.
Journal of the American Planning Association (2012)
Annette M. Kim
Problem, research strategy, and findings: Around the globe, streets and sidewalks in cities are being contested as spaces that should be used for more than transportation. This article challenges our understanding of both property rights and public space by applying a property rights framework to situate sidewalk use debates. It analyzes and maps the sidewalk property regimes of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, through a novel integration of surveying and ethnography. The case illuminates the feasibility of a mixed-use sidewalk that can be shared between various kinds of uses and users. A mixed-use sidewalk that is both cooperative and livable is possible if planners incorporate time into planning space in order to expand the sidewalk's flexibility and if local society can renarrate and enforce new legitimacies on the sidewalk. Takeaway for practice: Sidewalk space deserves more attention as an important public space. In our era of historic urbanization, we should reconceive sidewalks as a mixed-use space rather than an exclusively pedestrian zone. Moreover, North American planners would benefit from engaging with public space experiments happening in cities in the developing world. Research support: This research was supported by MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.
This article presents commentary and analysis on the Urban Studies special collection on the night-time city. The collection highlights burgeoning interest in the urban night from across the social sciences and helps consolidate what might be referred to as the ‘third wave’ of research on the evening and night-time economy (ENTE). The collection addresses the challenges of 21st cen- tury place-making after dark in a variety of international contexts. This commentary interprets individual contributions to this collection in the light of the author’s research experience within an evolving and increasingly sophisticated field of knowledge. The articles have, I suggest, power relations, social exclusion and social sustainability as their most prominent meta-themes. I pro- pose a new conceptual model for the interpretation of situated assemblages of power, capacity and influence, as operating across four overlapping modes of urban governance.
In recent years, public space in many North American cities has been physically and socially layered through the construction of gradeseparated pedestrian systems. Case studies of downtown Houston, Minneapolis, and Toronto investigate the emerging geography of the grade-separated city by examining: how the growth of skyway and tunnel systems reconfigures the proximity of downtown activities to one another; how quasi-public space within these systems is designed and controlled by the private sector; and the way that downtown spaces-both on the street and within these systems-are used by the general public. A common set of patterns reveals the challenges to social diversity in the heart of the North American city.
Urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg defines a third place as a place of refuge other than the home or workplace where people can regularly visit and commune with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers. Because little is known about the place-based physical qualities of third places that support sociability and place attachment, this article examines how four urban design characteristics distinguish third-place businesses from other businesses on the Main Street. The article discusses a study conducted at Main Streets in two cities and one town in Massachusetts. As part of the study, visual surveys measured urban design qualities of businesses on the Main Streets, and interviews helped determine user perceptions. The findings suggest that third places are relatively high in both personalization (distinctiveness, recognizability) and permeability to the street, but seating and shelter provisions are perhaps the most crucial urban design characteristics that contribute to sociability on the Main Street.
Urban designers are interested in the environmental qualities of places that make them better for walking, not only as settings for physical activity, but also as sensorial and social settings. Research in walkability lacks qualitative studies that address the microscale analyses of the environment. This paper is an empirical examination of the relationship of the physical, land-use, and social characteristics of the environment at the microscale to people’s behavior and perceptions toward walking. Using the data from surveys and interviews, this research emphasizes the integration of user perceptions and subjective measures to understand the impact of environmental characteristics on walking behavior on Main Streets. Adding to previous research, this study demonstrates the significance of social qualities in supporting walking. The findings expand our understanding of the hierarchy and criteria of walking needs and suggest that, given a safe and comfortable setting, people look for usefulness, sense of belonging and pleasurability as additional and distinct needs to enhance their walking experience.