Mobile digital technology as a tool to study walkability to advance theory, policy, and practice of walking for transport

Centre for Transport & Society, University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, UK

EP-2022-WK-05, Dr. Bozovic, Tamara

Partners:

  • Dr Miriam Ricci, UWE Bristol, UK
  • Prof Erica Hinckson, Auckland University of Technology, NZ
  • Prof Melody Smith, University of Auckland, NZ
  • Carla Galeota, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Argentina
  • Lorena Vecslir, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Argentina
  • Hana Sutch, Go Jauntly Ltd, UK
  • Grant Waters, Tranquil City, UK

Abstract

Supporting walking for transport requires a better understanding of how decisions to walk are made. Despite growing conceptual and empirical knowledge, there still is no consensus on what is walkable. The proposed project addresses this gap by studying associations between walking environments and perceived walkability. This proposal is an exploratory, participatory study drawing on the theoretical model – the Social Model of Walkability – linking environments to walking behaviours through people’s perceived walkability, using an innovative, award-winning walking and wayfinding smartphone application. The study is conducted in three urban locations in the Global South (San Martin, Buenos Aires AR) and North (Bristol UK and Auckland NZ). It investigates the relationships between objective features of the pedestrian environment and people’s walking experiences in each location, considering two contrasting routes (with different levels of tree coverage and noise) between an everyday origin and destination. The study is exploratory in its methodology and in its contribution to the theoretical model. The team comprises researchers from four universities and two private companies working pro bono: the app developer and a provider of geospatial environmental quality data in support of walkability. The academic team is multidisciplinary, spanning across transport planning, public health, and urban design, and bringing together expertise and experience in the study of walkability from theoretical and empirical perspectives. This proposal is a steppingstone that develops and tests an approach replicable on a broader scale to advance understanding of the associations between walking environments and people’s experiences of walking, across geographies and socio-demographics. The evidence from this project will support further research and the effective improvement of urban environments for walkability.