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The built environment and the experience of walking: being a pedestrian in Santiago’s deprived neighbourhoods

Figueroa Martínez, Cristhian Alfonso (2019) The built environment and the experience of walking: being a pedestrian in Santiago’s deprived neighbourhoods. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Existing research on relations between features of the built environment and walking has mostly focused on people’s propensity to walk in the given area. Measuring impacts as variations on the metrics of walking, the existing body of research has given little attention to pedestrians’ experience and, seeking for direct correlations between the physical structures and human behaviour, it has tended to separate the built environment from the social sphere, the local context and the public life. Little work has investigated the impacts of the built environment on pedestrians’ walking experience. Still less research has done so in a context of disadvantage. In this thesis, we aim to examine the impacts of the built environment on the practice of walking of those who live in deprived neighbourhoods. We investigate walking as situated social interaction and a complex learning process that is moulded over time, and the built environment as a dynamic and complex matter that, by being deeply intertwined with the social sphere, can affect walking in a variety of forms. To this end, we report the results of a research conducted in deprived areas of Santiago de Chile. The capital of Chile which, like other Latin American metropolises, has clear patterns of segregation and suffers from profound social divides. With a sequential design, we explored the context of disadvantage and inequality of Santiago (geographic mapping), observed on-site their public spaces (non-participant observation and mapping) and explored with residents their experience of walking (walking interviews). Furthermore, we asked residents if better environments can ease the practice of walking and invited policymakers to talk about those factors that deter or ease the improvement of the environments of the deprived areas of Santiago (semi-structured interviews). The findings suggest that walking happens in a context of territorial isolation and local social fragmentation; being moulded and delimited by the built environment in a variety of forms. The level of maintenance of the built environment can affect emotions as it mirrors the qualities of the local community. Facades and territorial demarcations can suppress trips, cause detours and increase apprehensions as these reflect territorial conflicts or the activities that occur in the public space. Aspects of the urban form can reflect broader constructs and stigmas (e.g. building type) and collaborate in the definition of what is expected to happen in the public space (e.g. land use). All these features are also “cues” from which pedestrians infer risks and adjust their behaviour accordingly. The findings suggest that an improved built environment can better people’s experience of walking and increase their willingness to go on foot. However, there are several obstacles to do so. Locals perceive that weakened communities prevent any attempt to improve the environment. Meanwhile, policymakers are constrained by a rigid and limiting framework that prevents the creation of new tools to intervene.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: walking, built environment, deprived neighbourhoods, Latin America, Santiago de Chile, public space, walking interviews
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > Institute for Transport Studies (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr. Cristhian Alfonso Figueroa Martínez
Date Deposited: 07 May 2020 06:33
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 06:33
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/26420

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