Designing for "Life between buildings" : modeling the relationship between streetscape qualities and pedestrian activity in Glasgow, Scotland

  • John Alexander Maxwell

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Rising levels of physical inactivity, among other pressing urban issues, have prompted urban designers to better understand the complex relationship between the built environment and human behavior. One of the most widely-cited measures of the built environment, as it relates to human behavior, is walkability – the measure of how conducive a place is to walking and other pedestrian activity. To date, walkability has largely been characterized by macroscale measures, such as street connectivity and neighborhood density. More recently, several walking audit instruments have also been developed to measure microscale features of pedestrian environments, like the number of street trees or pieces of street furniture. Yet, both of these measures fail to capture potentially important perceptual qualities of streetscapes that urban designers have long claimed as significant factors for more active streets. However, there is a surprising lack of empirical evidence in support of these claims based on validated, objective measures of streetscape qualities.The purpose of this study was to address this gap in research by modeling the relationship between objective measures of streetscape qualities and pedestrian activity in Glasgow, Scotland. Overall, five measures of streetscape qualities – including imageability, enclosure, human scale, transparency, and complexity – were collected from over 690 street segments across the city, along with several macroscale measures of walkability and pedestrian counts. The results of this study indicated that the five objective measures of streetscape qualities added significantly (p ≤ 0.05) to the explanatory power of walkability models when controlling for standard macroscale measures of walkability. Measures of imageability and transparency, in particular, had significant (p ≤ 0.05) relationships to pedestrian activity (p = 0.02 and p = 4.60E-14 respectively). These results suggest that streetscape qualities should be considered as important variables in future, city-wide studies linking measures of the built environment to pedestrian activity.
Date of Award1 Oct 2015
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorSergio Porta (Supervisor) & Ombretta Romice (Supervisor)

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