Urban planners and designers believe that the built environment at various geographic scales affects pedestrian activity, but have limited empirical evidence at the street scale, to support their claims. We are just beginning to identify and measure the qualities that generate active street life, and this paper builds on the first few studies to do so. This study measures street design qualities and surrounding urban form variables for 881 block faces in Salt Lake County, Utah, and relates them to pedestrian counts. This is the largest such study to date and includes suburbs as well as cities. At the neighborhood scale, we find that D variables – development density, accessibility to destinations, and distance to transit – are significantly associated with the pedestrian activity. At the street scale, we find significant positive relationships between three urban design qualities – imageability, human scale, and complexity – and pedestrian counts, after controlling for neighborhood-scale variables. Finally, we find that pedestrian counts are positively associated with seven of twenty streetscape features – historic buildings, outdoor dining, buildings with identifiers, less sky view, street furniture, active uses, and accent building colors. This study provides implications for streetscape projects that aim to create walkable places in typical auto-oriented, medium-sized cities.
The full article: Street life and the built environment in an auto-oriented US region by Keunhyun Park, Reid Ewing, Sadegh Sabouri and Jon Larsen in Cities, Volume 88, May 2019, Pages 243-251