Studying pedestrian outdoor activities in residential streets in deprived parts of Britain

Susana Alves, Catharine Ward Thompson, Catherine Millington

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This presentation is part of a longitudinal research project designed to compare older people’s experience and use of residential streets in sites across England, Scotland, and Wales before and after the implementation of ‘shared space’ environmental interventions based on Home Zone principles (DfT, 2005). It aims to (1) present a theoretical framework developed to understand people’s experiences and use of residential street settings based on environment-behaviour concepts (e.g. environmental support); (2) show how an innovative combination of tools was used to record the physical environment in residential streets in the UK and people’s patterns of outdoor activities in relation to it; (3) consider whether there is a relationship between environmental features and patterns of outdoor activities that is particular to deprived communities such as those under study.
Behaviour observations were undertaken in order to map out people’s patterns of outdoor activities in the study sites. They lasted for 30 minutes in different days of the week and were recorded in GIS using tablet PCs. Socio-demographic characteristics and people’s mobility status (e.g. wheel chair use), physical activity (e.g. standing, running), social interaction (e.g., talking to others) and companionship (e.g. alone or with others) were recorded. The findings showed that a higher frequency of younger adults is observed in the streets compared with other age groups, such as middle-aged adults and older adults (65 and older). Non-stationary activities (e.g., passing though the street) were the predominant ones; however, activities involving social interaction, such as talking to another person or playing, were also frequent, especially when specific environmental features, such as green and open spaces were present in the site. Even though, traffic data was not available for all sites; the general pattern for those sites analysed was towards increased social interaction in low trafficked streets compared to medium and high trafficked streets. The results also showed that a greater proportion of open/green space was present in the less affluent areas.
The presentation will conclude by discussing the importance of a conceptual model to study people’s outdoor patterns of activities and the need for a combined methodological approach to record patterns of activities. The relevance of detailed observation (Barker, 1968) to allow the understanding of everyday patterns of activities in street settings is also discussed, particularly, in the context of this longitudinal study.
DfT. Department for Transport. (2005). Home Zones. Challenging the future of our streets. London: DfT.
Barker, R. (1968). Ecological Psychology: Concepts and Methods for Studying the Environment for Human Behavior. Stanford, CA: Stanford University.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2010
Event21st IAPS Conference: Vulnerability, Risk and Complexity: Impacts of Global Change on Human Habitats - Leipzig, Germany
Duration: 27 Jun 20102 Jul 2010


Conference21st IAPS Conference: Vulnerability, Risk and Complexity: Impacts of Global Change on Human Habitats


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