Measuring pedestrian level of stress in urban environments: Naturalistic walking pilot study
Author(s): LaJeunesse, Seth; Ryus, Paul; Kumfer, Wesley; Kothuri, Sirisha; Nordback, Krista
Publication Date: Apr-2021
Journal: Transportation Research Record: The Journal of the Transportation Research Board
Abstract: Walking is the most basic and sustainable mode of transportation, and many jurisdictions would like to see increased walking rates as a way of reducing congestion and emission levels and improving public health. In the United States, walking trips account for 10.5% of all trips undertaken. To increase this rate, additional research on what makes people feel more comfortable while walking is needed. Research on pedestrian quality of service (QOS) has sought to quantify the performance of the pedestrian facilities from a pedestrian’s perspective. However, the impact of pedestrian safety countermeasures on pedestrian QOS for roadway crossings is largely unknown. The objective of this study is to discern pedestrian QOS based on physiological measurements of pedestrians performing normal walking activities in different traffic contexts. The naturalistic walking study described in this paper recruited 15 pedestrians and asked each to wear an instrumented wristband and GPS recorder on all walking trips for one week. Surprisingly, the findings from the study showed no correlation between participants’ stress levels and individual crossing locations. Instead, stress was associated with roadway conditions. Higher levels of stress were generally associated with walking in proximity to collector and arterial streets and in areas with industrial and mixed (e.g., offices, retail, residential) land uses. Stress levels were tempered in lower-density residential land uses, as well as in forest, park, and university campus environments. The outcomes from this study can inform how planners design urban environments that reduce pedestrian stress levels to promote walkability.