This research project focused on whether high or low incidence of pedestrian travel in mixed-use, medium density environments is due to site design characteristics and, specifically, to the presence of direct, continuous, and safe pedestrian systems.
The study examined twelve neighborhood centers, or "sites", in the Puget Sound area of Washington. The twelve sites were selected to match in terms of gross residential density, median income, automobile ownership, and intensity and type of neighborhood commercial development. Pedestrians and bicyclists who traveled into the commercial area were recorded. A clear break emerged between urban and suburban sites.
The average urban pedestrian volume was 37.7 per hour per 1,000 residents, three times higher than the 12.5 per hour per 1,000 residents in suburban sites. These results strongly support the hypothesis that, when other variables are held constant, the urban versus suburban difference in route directness and completeness of pedestrian facilities (namely, block size and sidewalk length) affects pedestrian volumes. The results also question the common belief that people do not walk in the suburbs. Given appropriate land-use conditions, pedestrian facility improvement programs in suburban areas could support pedestrian travel and have a significant influence on mode choice.