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
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