Promoting walking and changing the priority setting in urban mobility


  • Noriko Otsuka ILS Research gGmbH
  • Anna-Lena van der Vlugt ILS Research gGmbH
  • Janina Welsch ILS Research gGmbH
  • Katrin Lättman University of Gävle
  • Jonas De Vos University College London
  • Edward Prichard Linköping University


walkability, urban mobility, mixed methods, urban neighborhood, street-level assessment




This paper presents the overall results from the EU-JPI funded project, WalkUrban, which aims to promote urban walkability and reconsider the prioritisation of public space use by different modes of transport. In relation to the 15-minute city concept, the potential role of walking in reducing car dependency and shaping sustainable neighbourhoods has been discussed in previous studies. However, the allocation of public space for pedestrians is generally limited compared to extensive space for vehicles, as walking is still not well recognised as a single mode of transport and taken for grated in urban mobility.   

To understand key drivers for and obstacles to walking in different urban neighbourhoods, we have examined objective and perceived walkability based on mixed methods approach combining quantitative and qualitative data in order to assess urban walkability from multiple perspectives. Our research looked into built environment characteristics, pedestrian infrastructure, residents’ walking behaviour and perceptions in three European cities (Dortmund, Genoa and Gothenburg). These cities have different topography, socio-economic structure and public transport offers as well as policies and approaches to encouraging active modes. In terms of objective walkability, we calculated a walkability index using OS-Walk-EU, an open-source walkability assessment tool which aggregated scores of weighted proximities to amenities, pedestrian radius of activity, and the amount of green and blue infrastructure.  Subsequently we compared it to the perceived walkability by residents, resulting from household surveys conducted in six urban neighbourhoods in the three cities (n=1103). In addition to the findings from the household surveys, that captured people’s walking related attitudes and travel behaviour with reference to their recent walking trip, we carried out a street level assessment to understand how people perceive the built environment in-situ, and what factors actually stimulate or disturb them while walking.

To delve into people’s actual walking experience at street level, we applied two further methods: walk-alongs and walking route assessment (WRA) based on citizen science. To understand the needs of vulnerable people in relation to a feasible and enjoyable walking environment, we conducted walk-along interviews with different target groups such as school children, disabled and older people in the six urban neighbourhoods. For the WRA, we developed a tool by adapting a freely available software, KoBo Tookbox, and 92 citizens mainly in Dortmund and Genoa downloaded the tool on their smartphones and carried out an assessment of the walking routes they had chosen. For the household surveys and WRA, we applied the Short Perceived Walkability Scale (SPWS), a compact scale to measure perceived walkability and analyse its determinates. In parallel, the WRA and walk-alongs allowed to point out specific factors related to basic requirements of walking and barriers on streets (e.g., passable streets, pavement conditions, on-street parking) and additional aspects which enhance their walking experiences (e.g., green space, lively streets with many shops and stimulative arts).

The ultimate aim of the research is to identify local solutions for improving overall walkability alongside general recommendations for a pedestrian centred urban environment in order to change the prioritisation of walking in urban mobility. With experts and practitioners in the field we plan to explore policy implications and future implementations for creating walking-friendly neighbourhoods as well as the transferability of our research methods and outcomes to other European countries beyond the cities studied.


De Vos, J., Lättman, K., van der Vlugt, A.L., Welsch, J., and Otsuka, N. (2022) ‘Determinants and effects of perceived walkability: A literature review, conceptual model and research agenda’, Transport Reviews, 43(2), 303–324.

Fina, S., Gerten, C., Pondi, B., D'Arcy, L., O'Reilly, N., Vale, D.S., Pereira, M., and Zilio,S. (2022) ‘OS-WALK-EU: An open-source tool to assess health-promoting residential walkability of European city structures’, Journal of Transport & Health, 27,101486.

Otsuka, N., Wittowsky, D., Damerau, M., and Gerten, C., (2021) ‘Walkability assessment for urban areas around railway stations along the Rhine-Alpine Corridor’, Journal of Transport Geography 93, 103081.

Pot, F. J., van Wee, B., and Tillema, T. (2021) ‘Perceived accessibility: What it is and why it differs from calculated accessibility measures based on spatial data’, Journal of Transport Geography, 94, 103090.

Van der Vlugt, A.L., Curl, A., and Scheiner, J. (2021) ‘The influence of travel attitudes on perceived walking accessibility and walking behaviour’, Travel Behaviour and Society, 27, 47-56.