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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Case Study of Pedestrian Space Networks in Two Traditional Urban Neighbourhoods, Copenhagen, Denmark


Most pedestrian environment and behavior research has applied concepts of connectivity and access uniformly at the neighbourhood scale. Actual pedestrian networks rely on a limited number of routes to provide intra- and inter-neighbourhood pedestrian connections, suggesting the need to focus research. Also, much of the literature has proposed improvements to the built environment that have little relation to the planning system’s ability to implement them.

This research aims to assess the applicability of a network approach to pedestrian planning. It includes two case studies of comparable neighbourhoods in Copenhagen, Denmark. One neighbourhood has a robust pedestrian space network rich with choice, while the other has a fragmented network that limits pedestrian route choice.

A randomized survey of 600 households collected data on walking behavior and perceptions of the pedestrian environment. Also, 17 in-person interviews were conducted with residents to understand how attitudes and pedestrian opportunities influenced walking behavior.

This research also explored the role of Copenhagen’s political culture of planning in building and maintaining robust pedestrian space networks. The theme of state-market balance of power and its relevance to pedestrian policy implementation was explored through over 20 interviews with planners, politicians and private developers, as well as a detailed study of planning documents.

Survey results found that residents living in a robust pedestrian space network walked to a greater number of local destinations and a broader range of destination types. The relationship held for optional trips to social destinations. Residents living in a more robust pedestrian environment had a larger social network, suggesting neighbourhood design can influence social interaction.

The in-person interviews illustrated how residents chose routes through their neighbourhood, what constituted a barrier to pedestrian movement, and how social barriers affected the desirability of destinations that seemingly meet standard urban design criteria.

The political culture research demonstrated that economic constraints place stress on any planning system. A planning system that enjoys consistent political and financial support from elected officials, however, was found to have a superior ability to respond to collective challenges and develop innovative solutions. Further, the enhanced ability to implement policy appears associated with a more reflective approach to planning that encourages planners to enhance their skills and knowledge over time.

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