Walk Ability Criteria The Role of Walk Ability in Improving the Sense of Place

Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant Professor, Arts and Architecture Faculty, Islamic Azad University, Tehran Central Branch, Tehran, Iran


After modern age, car dominance on the urban spaces has reduced the walk ability and sense of place for pedestrians. Non pedestrians, somehow, are travelling in placeless cities as well. The ways that people appear and behave in streets, plazas and other urban places are now challengeable. The concept and meaning of the place is changed by inappropriate articulation of pedestrian and non-pedestrian and consequently the physical, social and perceptual values of the place are threatened. The main research question in this article is about the correlation between walk ability and the sense of place. Which qualitative indicators and criteria can be adopted for walk ability evaluation based on the sense of place? The research methodology is qualitative and exploratory. First, the extensive principals of walk ability and sense of place in urban design are reviewed. Then walk ability principals are sorted based on the aspects of the sense of place. Indicators for improving the sense of place, then, are highlighted. The aspects of the sense of place are, first, categorized into 3 components including Physical, Perceptual and Behavioral aspects, based on Punter’s ideas. Then, these are matched with eight layers of urban design proposed by Carmona including: Spatial, Morphological, Contextual, Visual, Perceptual, Social, Functional and Sustainability. One more layer is added, based on Jon Gehl’s contribution about people behaviors. For each of three aspects and 9 layers a series of urban design literature is studied and the key concepts and theories are analyzed. Meanwhile the walk ability issues are matched with each level. The key findings of this article indicate that there is a strong relation between walk ability and the sense of place. Assessment of the walk ability should consider three broad aspects of the place including physical, perceptual and behavioral. The balance between these three aspects might also be measured in a quantitative research. Some indicators for walk ability appraisal in this article are: natural features and climatic comfort, spatial variety and enclosure, dimensions, articulation to the surrounding, visual variety, memories, safety and security,   people interaction, variety and permeability of land uses and finally the efficient of optional people behaviors. Applying these indicators, the walk ability of the existing places as well as the sense of the place can be assessed. As the indicators coming out of this research are qualitative, therefore they remain so dynamic that means other researchers might improve or adjust it for specific target. There are also another factors including the number of people using the passage, local intentions and visions, type of vehicles, etc that can be classified into the studied layers. With the criteria resulting from this research, it is also possible to quantify the measurement for walk ability. However, for the measurement, it is recommended to evaluate the area under the supervision of expert panel. Generally, in order to improve the sense of the place, the design of the pedestrian way should consider not only perceptual and behavioral but also ecological, spatial, morphological, contextual, visual and functional aspects of the walk ability. Improving walk ability will normally improve the sense of the place