Every trip begins and ends with a walking trip, and everyone is a pedestrian at least for a part of its journey. Walking is often the only way that many people can access everyday activities, yet, the streets and public spaces, once meant for pedestrians, struggle with degradation and invasion from private vehicles, with the social live being drawn away from them. Walking is "the foundation of the sustainable city" providing social, environmental and economic benefits.
From the social point of view, walking can be seen as the most equitable mean of transportation, as it is cheap, and it needs only basic infrastructure. Walkable environments have been associated with more democratic and "civilized cities", since pedestrian facilities can provide accessibility benefits to a greater portion of the community when compared to road or rail improvements. These benefits are extended not only in terms of population figures but also across classes, including children and seniors, and low income groups who are disqualified from owning or operating automobiles.
The objective of this work is to find suitable pedestrian accessibility and attractiveness indicators for walkability assessment.
This research's object is composed by:
- The understanding of the link between the built environment and walking behaviour
- The identification of the relevant environmental features in defining pedestrian friendly environments
- The comprehension of walkability metrics and techniques
In order to frame the object according to the motivations in achieving the objective, the following methodological steps are taken:
- Literature review, focusing at a first stage in the understanding of the factors influencing walking behaviour, at a second stage in defining the walkability concepts and at a third stage in collecting existing walkability measurement tools, models and indicators.
- Walkability measurement appreciation, focusing in the suitability of existing methodologies in achieving this research’s proposed objective.
- Conceptual development of a walkability assessment model suitable for use at municipal planning offices (therefore mainly operational).
- Operational development of the model, concerning its structure and formulations.
- Testing of the model, with application in real world cases.
- Validation and discussion of the obtained result.
Walkability assessment is relevant as it provides factual data for decision aid, benchmarking and monitoring processes. Walkability and its measurement should not be seen as a “one fits all” concept. It is necessary to understand what type of walking is going to be assessed (if walking for transportation if walking for recreation or exercise), what pedestrian group is to address (adult, enfant, elderly, less able), where and when.
A model for walkability assessment was developed conceptually designed to fit the Portuguese municipal context. It made use of GIS analysis features in combination with MCDA techniques. The MCDA techniques allowed a clearer comprehension of what was to be assessed and by which means. The model was applied to the city of Lisbon, to the Bairro Alto neighbourhood and to some of its streets. Results were encouraging, as a positive correlation was found between estimated walkability and pedestrian travel patterns. Further developments will undoubtedly contribute to the understanding and validation of walkability scores.