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Pedestrian landscape design

Naderi eyes walker-friendly landscapes



Texas A&M University's Jody Naderi wants to know why people choose to walk — and she keeps stopping them to find out. Her first stop has been on her home campus, but she thinks the lessons learned there will be applicable in a variety of scenarios.

The landscape architecture professor has interviewed 150 campus pedestrians so far, and she and computer science graduate student Baranidharan Raman have used what they learned to write software that helps design walker-friendly landscapes.

"We asked people why they were walking around the campus, then we surveyed their physical environments to determine what landscape features contributed to their achieving their goals," Naderi says. "We found that people were walking to achieve one of five goals: to promote health or prevent disease; for exercise; for fun; to encourage contemplation; and just to get somewhere. We then combined what we had learned about pedestrians' motivations with features of their environment, such as path surface, availability of benches on which to rest, noise levels, nature sounds and smells, to construct a decision-tree model for designing pedestrian landscapes that encourage walking for health."

Naderi says the concepts derived from study of the Texas A&M campus are applicable in just about any location, but local input is necessary to pick up on the nuances of climate and context that strongly affect pedestrian preferences.

Naderi and Raman's work has been published as "Computer Based Pedestrian Landscape Design Using Decision Tree Templates" in the September 2005 Advanced Engineering Informatics.

"In addition to the practical features of the pedestrian environment, including its safety, I feel that landscape design guidelines must include engagement of all five of the senses and the potential for spiritual renewal," Naderi says. "Pedestrian landscapes are particularly successful when they feature pleasant nature sounds and smells and if they are connected to something sacred to those who use them."

In addition to parks and other more protected walking areas, Naderi believes the software can be applied to designing safer and more pedestrian-friendly streets.

"Walking on the street can be a life and death matter," Naderi says. "Yet people use the street as a health facility for walking and jogging. I am currently expanding my research to examine how we can design our streets for safe pedestrian outcomes."


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