Participative approaches for accessibility planning: a review and applications


  • Armand Pons CNRS, University of Strasbourg


Multimodal accessibility, People-centred approach, Interactive GIS-based platform, Participatory mapping, Low-carbon mobility




In the past decades, urban studies repeatedly highlighted proximity, inclusive public transports (PT), along with walkability and cyclability as major challenges for improving spatial justice and decarbonising mobility (e.g. Sclar et al., 2014). A range of accessibility indicators has been developed in this vein to evaluate equity in transportation (Pereira et al. 2016). Usual metrics are based on a combination of infrastructural data, information on their use and urban characteristics (demographics, the local distributions of ressources, etc.); they can be described as morphological indicators. Their major shortcoming is that they do not incorporate more subjective dimensions such as the perceptions of urban spaces’ users (Ryan and Pereira, 2021) including comfort, the match between individual needs and the available services, as well as the perceived danger. These are all dimensions that we cannot fully identify without going down to a micro scale, and without putting people at the heart of the research protocol. We postulate that participative approaches are essential for enhancing accessibility metrics and mobility planning (Boisjoly and Yengoh, 2017). We thus propose to build methodologies that would no longer be solely based on urban morphological elements, but also on the specific constraints affecting people when choosing their ways in the city. If these specifics can vary widely at the individual level and from one spatial or temporal context to another, with physical and social factors playing a key role alongside environmental factors, we argue that interactive tools can help overcome this issue.

Our method is based on a mixed-method mobility modeling, considering both motility, i.e. the ability to move (Kaufmann et al., 2004) and social perceptions. By adopting this perspective, we considered that individuals don’t always choose their route according to the shortest path between an origin and their destination, but by arbitrating between ways that are more or less demanding. Indeed, people can prefer detours in the event of a difficult crossing, a complex transfer or to avoid congested streets, and use safer, better-signposted roads as alternative routes. In order to comprehensively assess specific accessibilities, in situ experiments and focus groups were carried out. We collected PT users’ constraints and perceptions through interviews and collaborative mapping. These qualitative results were used to calibrate and refine our measurements. Based on our observations, we also overlaid constraints in order to match users’ experience as closely as possible. In parallel, we created an online platform to gather participative feedback on the cycling and pedestrian networks. This will enable us to conduct a complementary analysis on bikeability and walkability in the urban space, and thus better address multimodal accessibility issues.


Boisjoly, G., Yengoh, G. T. (2017). Opening the door to social equity: local and participatory approaches to transportation planning in Montreal. European transport research review 9 (3), 1-21.

Kaufmann, V., Bergman, M.M., Joye, D.A. (2004). Motility: Mobility as capital. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 28, 745-756.

Pereira R., Schwanen T., Banister D. (2016). Distributive justice and equity in transportation, Transport Reviews.

Ryan, J., Pereira, R.H.M. (2021). What are we missing when we measure accessibility? Comparing calculated and self-reported accounts among older people. Journal of Transport Geography 93.

Sclar, E., Lönnroth, M., Wolmar, C. (2014). Urban Access for the 21st Century. Routledge, London.