Human movement behaviour in urban spaces: implications for the design and modelling of effective pedestrian environments

A Willis, N Gjersoe, Catriona Havard, Julia Kerridge, R Kukla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)


Despite a burgeoning research effort directed at the design and modelling of effective urban spaces for pedestrians, remarkably little is known about how pedestrians actually negotiate urban spaces. This paper reports the results of a video-based observational study aimed at exploring: (1) individuals' movement preferences within uncluttered environments, in particular: (a) desired walking speed, (b) microscopic position preferences, and (c) interpersonal distances between companions while walking; and (2) the ways in which these variables might be influenced by the various personal, situational, and environmental factors that characterise the context in which pedestrians move. The microscopic movement trajectories of 2613 participants were investigated in a covert, video-based observational study of three mixed-use (residential/retail) urban environments close to the city centres of Edinburgh and York, United Kingdom. Age, gender, level of mobility, group size, time of day, and location were found to have significant effects on movement preferences across the range of locations studied. We concluded that a number of influential factors affect how humans negotiate urban spaces, and suggested how these factors may be taken into account in attempts to design and model effective urban spaces for pedestrians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-828
Number of pages24
JournalEnvironment and Planning B-Planning and Design
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004


  • natural movement
  • simulation
  • flow

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