Walkers: part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4
Apologies for the delay in this follow up to my previous Walker post…
I have been mulling over what I learned in the Walking & the Life of the City Symposium and trying to figure out how that information can be transformed into useful knowledge to design a more walkable city for Sam.
The conference was divided into two parts: the first half which dealt with walking behaviors, and the second which dealt with the future of walking and walking research. The behavioral component was gratifying in that it (in my mind anyway) validated using a persona based approach to thinking about designing pedestrian infrastructure. Please permit me to take a moment to very briefly summarize some of what I learned, before approaching Sam’s dilemma.
Dick Ettema used some amazing language to describe his research: hedonic (maximizing pleasure), eudaimonic (satisfaction or contentment), telic, paratelic, and (the lady next to me’s favorite) optimal arousal. Good for him, if driving is sexy, why not walking! I learned that Sam is a telic walker in that he is focused and doesn’t want stimuli, unlike his paratelic window-shopping counterparts who are seeking stimuli. He also talked about walking as a way of expressing autonomy, which is very important for vulnerable groups, like the elderly.
His research as well as that of Kevin Manaugh, who has been conducting research on the behavioral and social justice implications of walking [For instance, why do people walk? For positive reasons? (To be healthy) Or due to constraints? (There are no other options)], point to the idea that there is no one superior design for pedestrian infrastructure, and that we need a variety of streetscapes to satisfy our emotional, physical, and transportation needs. Not just because people are different, but because individuals seek out different walking experiences depending on their moods, desires, health, and economic status (Beth’s broken toe, as an example). I believe Sam is therefore just one example of a mode of walking, and while his needs may overlap with other modes, no one mode should necessarily predominate (as long as physical safety and accessibility is the baseline for good pedestrian infrastructure design).
Speaking of physical safety and accessibility…
David King believes that the Americans with Disabilities Act could be leveraged to create more walkable roads and maximize pedestrian improvements, because generally whenever one makes a road more accessible to those with disabilities it makes the road more walkable for everyone. He suggests that accessibility is a better goal than our current level of service driven system, which ties federal funds to maintaining vehicular levels of service (reducing space on roads for cars could impact federal money provided to maintain that road). Basically roads are now engineered for one purpose, to move vehicles more efficiently. How do we change that goal to moving the most number of people more efficiently and safely? He also suggests that we tax land, not buildings, which could lead to denser development. Another thing he mentioned, which turned a dogma on its head, was that Transit Oriented Development(TOD) is liked (wait for it)…
not for the TRANSPORTATION, but for the WALKABILITY!
I really loved that bit.
While these topics related to Sam the best, I do not mean to imply that the others were not interesting…
Sarah Kaufman definitely got the most questions (her topic, augmented reality, was after all very sci-fi, and therefore cool).
Robert Schneider was a good looking guy dedicated to getting better data and data collection methods on pedestrian activity (transit nerds and librarians swoon here).
Andrew Mondschein spoke about cognitive mapping while walking, which has resulted in plaNYourCity bloggers thinking about taking on some cognitive mapping related posts. Andrew’s premise that people who walk are generally more actively cognitive mapping, as opposed to passive riders in the back of a taxi cab for example, sparked some considerable discussion. So look for posts on that soon!
Also I promise to not neglect Sam!