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.