M.-A. Granié, T. Brenac, M.-C. Montel, C. Coquelet, M. Millot, F. Monti, M. Pannetier
Purpose: Taking all users of the road system into account — notably those who use non-motorized modes of transportation — is a major challenge for urban engineers when designing roads and public spaces. And yet, although a body of knowledge exists concerning the effects of the environment on pedestrian accidentology, so far very little research has been carried out on the perception pedestrians have of the road environment (structure of buildings, vegetation, etc.) and its influence on decision-making when crossing. This exploratory research aims at studying this perception through a qualitative approach. Methods: We used the focus group method to study the perception of 20 two-way street environments with a certain level of diversity from the point of view of buildings (type, density, and heterogeneity), activities, position in relation to the city center, width of the sidewalks and type of traffic. The participants in the two focus groups were 11 regular or occasional pedestrians. Results: The verbal material obtained is analyzed in terms of perception of the environment, inferences about driver behavior (notably toward pedestrians), and influence on the pedestrian crossing behavior. Pedestrians prefer environments in which they have the “upper hand” or environments that are highly predictable. Conclusions: The results suggest a few tendencies or lines of approach concerning the design of spaces that make street crossing more comfortable for pedestrians. They also show that the focus group method is of great interest for studying the perception and interpretation of urban environments.
Keywords: pedestrian; environment; perception; focus group; road crossing behavior; road design