The experience of urban walking is one that can form an important package of time in people’s daily routine, with 8 million hours being spent daily walking in urban areas in the UK. This study explores urban walking experience as a holistic and multi-faceted experience. It examines this experience with particularly novel foci on areas within the inner worlds of pedestrians and how these interact with elements within their surroundings, including other pedestrians. The study also contains a specific interest in pedestrian experience of motor traffic: an influential but little researched factor in modern city life.
A data-led, qualitative approach to data collection and analysis is used, employing phenomenological commitments. The approach represents advances in capturing and understanding pedestrian experience. Two phases of data collection utilized walk-alongs and interviews recalling walking trips. Interviews progressed from discussing details in the walking experience to consideration of its essence.
Findings add to previous knowledge by presenting four themes which seek to represent core, essential elements of the urban walking experience. These themes expose elements in the social, emotional and thought lives of the urban pedestrian. The pedestrian experience is understood as being created by triangular relationships between the inner world of the pedestrian, the outer experienced city and the physical act of walking itself. Complexities within these relationships are elucidated. Implications include that the inner cognitive life of the pedestrian should, where possible, be both protected and inspired by the walked environment. Findings about the pedestrian experience of motor traffic are also presented. Ways in which the negative effects of traffic are mitigated for the pedestrian are detailed. These include various types of barriers and the view that motor traffic is necessary for city life. Conclusions indicate areas for policy consideration and further research, which the study’s new ideas on walking inform.