What Kind of Pedestrian Are You?

whatpedestrian.jpgCategories of pedestrians, based on their walking patterns. Courtesy: Norbert Brändle, Austrian Institute of Technology.

Part of designing more walkable cities — a goal of this week’s
Walk21 Conference
— is figuring out how pedestrians actually interact
with the space around them, something that seems inherently difficult
because of the erratic and unique behavior of your average walker. But
two Austrian researchers came to the conference with with some
intriguing ideas for measuring walking. Alexandra Millonig, of the Vienna University of Technology,
and Norbert Brändle, of the Austrian Institute of Technology, decided to
study and categorize pedestrian behavior based on a survey of Austrian shoppers. They lumped them into
four basic types, as you can see above.

The
researchers studied pedestrian shoppers in a variety of ways. On top of
interviews, they followed shoppers on the street (Brändle called it
"stalking"), noting their trajectories, speed, and number of stops. In
another phase of the project, they equipped people with Bluetooth and
GPS location trackers to map out each walking trip. If you know what
different pedestrians look for based on these categories, you can build
urban environments that have features that are appealing to each kind
of walker.

Designing
walkable environments, as you’d guess, is more complex than the
grid-and-pavement planning of car-centric areas. The study found
that, unlike drivers, who want the shortest path possible to their
destination, walkers prefer more convoluted routes, and, more importantly, Brändle said, would
prefer to take a different route home than the one they arrived on.
That lends further credibility to the argument that in order to make areas more
walkable, we also need to give them greater connectivity — with more routes to
and from the places pedestrians need to go.

If
you want to see the full results of their study, Millonig and Brändle
have made them available on an easy-to-read poster, which you can
download here.

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