A method for evaluation of urban pedestrian spaces

Sheila S Mitra-Sarkar, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation examines the theoretical and conceptual basis for evaluating pedestrian spaces. The objective is to develop a comprehensive, and multi-dimensional method that would be useful to professionals who are interested in evaluating the existing conditions of pedestrian spaces on urban streets to propose changes and improvements. The evaluation method was developed after extensive study of the existing studies conducted by different researchers on the different requirements for making pedestrian spaces safe, comfortable, and convenient to use. The method examines the level of safety, comfort, and convenience on sidewalks and intersections in urban areas. The qualitative method proposed in this dissertation, has been designed to examine walkways at macro and micro levels using different elements. While the macro level part of the method (Service Levels) studied the general conditions of the walkways and intersections, the micro level components in the method evaluated the quality of service at finer details (Quality of Service Levels). Numerical standards have been deliberately avoided because rigid measurements are very difficult to apply in pedestrian walkways. Pedestrians, unlike vehicles are not always in motion when on their assigned right-of-way. They stop suddenly, sit down, chat with others, window shop, browse. None of these activities can be numerically configured for the design of a perfect walkway. Pedestrians' activities are influenced by culture, prevailing conditions, land uses influence, trip type and so on. The proposed method was applied to functionally and physical different urban streets in Philadelphia to test its applicability under diverse conditions. The application of the method led to the following conclusions. First, the method enables a detailed and comprehensive evaluation on a block-by-block basis of pedestrian spaces on urban streets. Second, the method helps in determining the actions that need to be taken to improve the existing conditions. Third, the method helps in prioritizing work. By enabling a comparative analysis of different streets, professionals using the method can determine the street/streets that would require immediate attention. Application of the method also led to the following limitations. First, the method is best suited for urban areas with mixed land uses. Second, the method is labor and time intensive. Third, the method may lead to subjective interpretation of the observed conditions. The proposed evaluation method in this dissertation, opens up an alternative way of looking at urban walkways in dense, mixed use, urban streets. And, the same principles and concepts can be used to develop different sets of Service and Quality of Service Levels for residential streets in urban areas, urban plazas, stations, air terminals, and a host of other pedestrian frequented areas. Furthermore, the same concepts and principles can be used for developing discrete sets of Service and QOS Levels for developing countries, or countries with distinct cultural and physical differences from that of the United States, or West European countries.

Subject Area

Transportation|Urban planning|Area planning & development|American history

Recommended Citation

Mitra-Sarkar, Sheila S, "A method for evaluation of urban pedestrian spaces" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9521086.