Getting the inside track on street design

Analysis of pedestrian movements helps researchers better understand effective urban design.

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Pedestrian movements are tricky to track, but now the first large-scale statistical analysis of pedestrian flow using anonymous phone data collected in three European capital cities, London, Amsterdam and Stockholm, has been conducted by researchers from KAUST with Swedish colleagues from Gothenburg.

Analyzing the flow of pedestrians through city streets provides insights into how city design influences walking behavior. Studies of pedestrian flow inform new urban developments, enable designers to define quieter areas and "urban buzz" zones and reveal how spaces are used at different times.

“In a previous study, we found strong links between the total number of people walking on a given street in one day and certain characteristics of the urban environment,” says David Bolin at KAUST. Specifically, built density type, which is a variable based on the total floor space and ground space taken up by buildings on a street, correlated with the intensity of pedestrian flow, while the relative position of each street in a city — its "centrality" or street type — explained flow variations within each area. 

Many similar studies have been hampered by methodological inconsistencies and small datasets, but this one had a large dataset.

“We took advantage of the power of large-scale data collection to determine if these same variables (density and street type) could explain both the full-day counts in different streets and the variations in flow over the day,” says Bolin. “We developed a functional ANOVA model to explore our results.”

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