Pedestrian Environments and Sense of Community

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  • of Planning Education and Research online version of this article can be found at:

    DOI: 10.1177/0739456X0202100307 2002 21: 301Journal of Planning Education and Research

    Hollie LundPedestrian Environments and Sense of Community

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    Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning

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  • LundPedestrian Environments and Sense of Community

    Pedestrian Environments andSense of Community

    Hollie Lund

    Planning for an improved quality of life has become a very hot topic in fields such ascommunity development, urban planning, environmental psychology, and urbandesign. While quality of life will obviously have different meanings for each individual,as well as each community, an increasingly common element in any plan with such agoal is establishing a sense of community. The importance of sense of community tothe well-being of individuals and communities has been strongly embraced and advo-cated by the popular Neotraditional Development (NTD)or New Urbanismmove-ment, which includes an enhanced sense of community as one of its primary goals(Bookout 1992; Calthorpe 1994). Underlying this goal is the belief that sprawling,homogeneous, automobile-oriented developmentthe standard for suburban devel-opment in America since the 1950shas isolated people from their neighbors andtheir communities, detached people from their surroundings, and drained the sense ofcommunity that was so common in early-twentieth-century neighborhoods.

    The NTD movement seeks to return to the design and social environment of theseearly traditional neighborhoods, characterized by higher densities, a diversity ofhousing types, a concentrated core of retail and employment, a pedestrian-orientedenvironment, dedicated public and open spaces, and connected street networks. By fol-lowing these general design guidelines, it is anticipated that NTDs will develop a strongsense of community of place because people will be drawn out to their streets and otherpublic and semipublic spaces, where they can interact with each other and their neigh-borhood. And through the creation of a unique, high-quality environment, NTDs arealso expected to increase the level of attachment and pride that residents feel towardtheir neighborhood, also contributing to community of place.

    Unfortunately, while a growing number of communities and regions are turning toNTDs as a tool for fostering Americas lost sense of community and creating more liv-able neighborhoods, research that evaluates the potential for developing sense of com-munity through traditional-style neighborhood designs is limited. One problem is thatNTD literature rarely provides a definition for sense of community, making it very diffi-cult to evaluate an NTDs success or failure in fostering this vaguely articulated concept.And while community psychologists and sociologists have put considerable effort overthe past few decades toward defining community in the context of neighborhood, weare just beginning to understand what it is and how it can be measured. This is an areain need of further studyespecially the connection between the built environment


    Journal of Planning Education and Research 21:301-312 2002 Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning


    A common claim made by New Urbanistsis that a high-quality pedestrian environ-ment will enhance sense of community byincreasing opportunities for interactionamong neighbors. This link betweenneighborhood design and communitysentiment, however, has not been ade-quately researched. This study exploreshow objective and subjective qualities ofthe pedestrian environment influence res-idents sense of community, both directlyand indirectly through their effects on pe-destrian travel. Surveys conducted in onepedestrian-oriented neighborhood andone automobile-oriented neighborhoodin Portland, Oregon, support the hypothe-ses that (1) sense of community will begreater in the traditional neighborhoodand (2) pedestrian environment factorswill significantly influence sense of com-munity, controlling for various demo-graphic influences.

    Hollie Lund is an assistant professor at Cali-fornia State Polytechnic University,Pomona. Her primary interest is in therelationship between neighborhooddesign and peoples daily behaviors andattitudes, with a specific emphasis on com-munity and neighborhood life, local travelbehavior, and other quality of life issues.

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  • and community sentimentif planners are to continueincluding the enhancement of social environments as a goalfor their community.

    A second difficulty that arises in researching the linkbetween community and neotraditional designs is the rela-tively small number of NTDs that have been established. Whilethere are a number of examples across the United States whereNTD designs have been used in the development of new com-munities, few of them have been around long enough to justifyevaluation efforts. Therefore, researchers often resort to thestudy of older, traditional neighborhoods (TNs) built up nearthe turn of the century, focusing on the strength of the theoriesbehind the NTD movement and its long-term potential.Although there are drawbacks to this method, such as the factthat TNs benefit from a long history of development and resi-dential growth that NTDs do not have, TNs do offer the mostsuitable research substitute until NTDs become more estab-lished. And so this is the approach taken here.

    This study attempts to answer two basic questions thatshould be of great concern to planners and urban designers asthey attempt to enhance sense of community within neighbor-hoods. The first is whether the pedestrian-oriented environ-ment of TNs can actually be associated with a higher sense ofcommunity than the automobile-oriented environment ofmodern suburban neighborhoods (MSNs). If it turns out thatthis is not true, it may indicate problems with New Urbanismsunderlying theory, which is based on the notion that tradi-tional-style neighborhoods inherently have a higher sense ofcommunity because they are designed to foster social interac-tion and a richer social environment. The second question isone of design and implementation: what is it that actually influ-ences sense of community? This study focuses on the influenceof subjective and objective evaluations of the neighborhoodpedestrian environment.

    Past Literature

    Although specific definitions vary, depending on onesresearch interests and disciplinary background, sense of com-munity essentially represents the latent aspect of a commu-nitys social environment, such as sense of mutual aid (even ifdaily interaction is missing), neighborhood security, sense ofbelonging, shared values, and so forth (McMillan and Chavis1986; Nasar and Julian 1995). It contributes to a wide array ofbeneficial personal and neighborhood conditions, such asneighboring and neighborhood cohesion (Buckner 1988;Unger and Wandersman 1982; Skjaeveland, Garling, andMaeland 1996), community organizing (Smith 1975; Sarason1978; Heller 1989), community identity (Hummon 1990),

    residential satisfaction (Fried 1982; OBrien and Ayidaya1991), overall quality of life (OBrien and Ayidaya 1991), andpersonal well-being and mental health (Davidson and Cotter1991; Hendryx and Ahern 1997). The question now shifts fromwhy attempt to enhance sense of community to how this can beaccomplished. And more specific to the topic at hand, whymight residents of one neighborhood have this sense of localcommunity while those of another do not?

    A number of elements have been identified as contributingto sense of community, although there is certainly no consen-sus on the relative influence of each. These factors tend to fallinto three broad categories: influences of the physical environ-ment, influences of the social environment, and personal/sociodemographic influences. The influence of the social envi-ronment on sense of community and other latent forms ofcommunity has been particularly well researched, especiallythat of casual social interaction within the neighborhood(Granovetter 1973; Smith 1975; McMillan and Chavis 1986;Buckner 1988; Skjaeveland, Garling, and Maeland 1996).

    In his classic article The Strength of Weak Ties,Granovetter (1973) claims that weak interpersonal ties amongneighborsthe type of ties characterized by casual, brief, low-intensity contactenhance social cohesion by aiding themovement of information and ideas within the communityand increasing access to resources and opportunities. WhileGranovetters theory of weak ties has remained strong in theliterature, his claim that stronger ties lead to a fragmentedneighborhood (by creating clusters of individuals) has beenstrongly criticized (Greenbaum 1982), and further researchhas revealed that more intense forms of social interaction canin fact enhance sense of community. Common dimensionsused to describe these strong ties include supportive relation-ships in the neighborhood and relationship patterns of resi-dents (Glynn 1981; Nasar and Julian 1995), supportive acts ofneighboring (Skjaeveland, Garling, and Maeland 1996), andnumber of close neighbor relations (Chavis, Hogge, andMcMillan 1986). Level of involvement in the neighborhood,such as in neighborhood organizations or through the use oflocal facilities, was identified as a contributor to sense of com-munity by Smith (1975); Unger and Wandersman (1982);Chavis, Hogge, and McMillan (1986); Chavis andWandersman (1990); Nasar and Julian (1995); and Saegertand Winkel (1996).

    Personal and sociodemographic influences on sense ofcommunity, either directly or indirectly through their impacton social interaction and acts of neighboring, have also beenfairly well researched. Personal factors include individualsattitudes toward their neighborhood, such as attraction toneighborhood (Buckner 1988), neighborhood identity(Smith 1975), attachment to place (Skjaeveland and Garling

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  • 1997), neighborhood satisfaction (Unger and Wandersman1982), and neighborhood security (Nasar and Julian 1995). Italso includes the influence of such variables as life stage andsocioeconomic status. For instance, households with children(particularly young children) are more likely to develop asense of community within their neighborhood (Riger andLavrakas 1981; Unger and Wandersman 1982; Buckner 1988;Nasar and Julian 1995; Skjaeveland, Garling, and Maeland1996), as are women (Unger and Wandersman 1982;Skjaeveland, Garling, and Maeland 1996), married couples(Nasar and Julian 1995), elderly (Skjaeveland, Garling, andMaeland 1996), home owners (Chavis, Hogge, and McMillan1986), and households with a long length of residency in theneighborhood (Buckner 1988; Chavis, Hogge, and McMillan1986; Skjaeveland, Garling, and Maeland 1996). Less clear isthe influence of socioeconomic status. Research suggests, how-ever, that while individuals in well-integrated groups (i.e.,women, married couples, educated, high income) may havelarger social networks within their neighborhood (Campbelland Lee 1992), individuals in less integrated groups (i.e.,minority, low income, low education) have more intense socialrelations with their neighbors and a greater level of socialcohesion (Riger and Lavrakas 1981; Buckner 1988; Campbelland Lee 1992). This is likely due to the latter groups greaterneed for local support and social bonds.

    Of primary concern to planners and designers, however, isthe role that physical environment plays in developing andenhancing neighborhood-based sense of community, eitherdirectly or indirectly by affecting nondesign influences such associal interaction. This is where the rationale behind NewUrbanisms claim that a well-designed pedestrian environmentcan contribute to sense of community begins to show itself.

    In the few instances where researchers have been able tostudy the social environment of neotraditional neighbor-hoods, the findings have supported the link between the over-all design of these neighborhoods and enhanced levels ofsense of community, social interaction, and neighborliness(Plas and Lewis 1996; Langdon 1997; Bothwell, Gindroz, andLang 1998). In each case, the researcher attributed these socialelements specifically to the physical design of the neighbor-hoods, including their pedestrian orientation. Additionalstudies have focused on specific elements of the neighborhoodenvironment. Physical factors identified as contributing tosense of community at the neighborhood level include diverse,urban environments (Mann 1954; Haggerty 1982; Hummon1990); the character, design, and architectural quality of theneighborhood (Mann 1954; Sarason 1978; Plas and Lewis1996; Langdon 1997; Bothwell, Gindroz, and Lang 1998); theavailability of structured public and semiprivate space (Plasand Lewis 1996; Skjaeveland and Garling 1997; Bothwell,

    Gindroz, and Lang 1998); and the presence of local stores andneighborhood facilities (Smith 1975; Plas and Lewis 1996;Langdon 1997).

    None of the literature in this area, however, has taken an in-depth look at how pedestrian travel and pedestrian friendlyenvironments contributeor if they contributeto the devel-opment of a rich social environment. Thus far, pedestrian-spe-cific research has remained in the realm of transportation ben-efits associated with traditional designs. Issues that have beenaddressed include the influence of urban design on pedestriantravel (Ewing, Haliyur, and Page 1995; Handy 1996; Shriver1996; Hess et al. 1999), the likelihood of residents to walk tolocal shopping facilities (Steiner 1998), the relationshipbetween perceptions of the local walking environment andpedestrian behavior (Handy 1992, 1996), and the relationshipbetween peoples personal attitudes and their pedestrianbehavior (Kitamura, Mokhitarian, and Laidet 1997). They donot include the social benefits of walking or of designingneighborhoods for pedestrians.

    As the theory of New Urbanism gains momentum, withmore and more planners, urban designers, and architects pro-moting this direct and/or indirect link between pedestrianenvironments and sense of community as a means to develop-ing stronger communities, it is critical that we give the topicmore research attention. This study intends to begin movingus in this direction by testing the New Urbanism assumptionthat pedestrian-oriented TNs foster a greater sense of commu-nity than do their automobile-oriented counterparts and byinvestigating the relative contribution of objective and subjec-tive evaluations of the pedestrian environment to sense of com-munity, after controlling for select sociodemographicvariables.


    To examine the effects of neighborhood design on sense ofcommunity, this study compares one TN with one early MSN inPortland, Oregon, through the use of household surveys. Therelationship between neighborhood design and pedestriantravel was also addressed in this study but will be discussed hereonly where relevant to sense of community. The direction ofcausality presented in this studys hypotheses is based on theclaims being made by New Urbanismthat the built environ-ment will increase the likelihood of community-orientedbehaviors, such as walking, and these behaviors will in turnenhance community-oriented attitudes, such as neighbor-hood attachment. The first hypothesis is that TN residents willhave a higher sense of community than those of the MSN. Thesecond is that the objective and subjective qualities of the

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  • neighborhoods pedestrian environment will significantly con-tribute to residents sense of community.

    Neighborhood Selection

    Selection of the two neighborhoods controlled, to theextent possible, median household income, access to a localshopping district, access to highway(s) and transit, and topog-raphy. Differences in the two neighborhoods represent theobjective quality of the pedestrian environment. Urban designfactors considered include era of development, street and side-walk connectivity, housing mix, housing setbacks, lot size, pres-ence of front porches, pedestrian amenities, and the overallpedestrian orientation of the local commercial area (pedes-trian access, storefronts on sidewalks, etc.).

    Data used in selecting sites were collected from the 1996American Community Survey for Multnomah County, Ore-gon; the Metropolitan Service District Regional Land Informa-tion System geographical information system database; andsite surveys. The first step in neighborhood selection was to

    identify neighborhoods built up in the two eras of interest tothis study: traditional-era neighborhoods built up prior to1945 and modern-era suburbs built up between 1950 and1985. These neighborhoods were then matched appropriatelybased on the control variables. The final selection was madebased on a visual evaluation of each neighborhoods urbandesign factors. See Figures 1 and 2 for overall layouts and pho-tographs of the selected neighborhoods.

    The TN. An inner-city neighborhood on Portlands east sidewas selected for the traditional-style neighborhood. Built upduring the early 1900s, the neighborhood is characterized bysmall, narrow lots and a gridiron street pattern with shortblocks (200 feet), narrow streets, and a continuous network ofsidewalks (see Figure 1). Most streets are lined with trees, offer-ing shade to walkers. The majority of houses have a front porchand are set relatively close to the streets, with the garage setback toward the rear of the house. The neighborhood shop-ping district is within one-half mile of all the housing units (seeFigure 1) and is not separated from the residential areas bybusy streets or large parking lots. The shopping district is also

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    (( ((((



    Single-family residencesMulti-family residencesCommercial usesParks

    Elementary schoolBus routesBus stopsAppropriate study area

    The Traditional Neighborhood. The Modern Suburb.

    0 0.125 0.25 Miles 0 0.25 0.5 Miles

    Figure 1. Layout and land use of selected neighborhoods.

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  • pedestrian oriented; buildings are connected, store entrancesare located on the sidewalks, storefronts are windowed andinteresting to look at, and the sidewalks are well maintained.The businesses located within the shopping district include amajor grocery store, a selection of restaurants, cafes and coffeeshops, banks, and various retail shops and neighborhood ser-vices, such as book and music stores and a dry cleaner.

    The MSN. The modern-style suburban neighborhood wasbuilt up predominantly during the postWorld War II era. Thisneighborhood has larger lots and a disconnected, curvilinearstreet pattern (see Figure 1) characterized by cul-de-sacs, longblocks, and wide traffic lanes. Most streets do not have side-walks. There are very few street trees, although many homes dohave landscaped yards with large trees that provide some shadeon the streets. Housing setbacks are large, garages are highly vis-ible, and housing design consists predominantly of modernist-style architecture. The neighborhood commercial area islocated along the northern border of the site. It is within one-half mile of all the housing units but is designed for the auto-mobile and is separated from the residential area by a busy five-lane arterial and large parking lots. The businesses in the

    commercial area provide similar goods and services to those inthe TN.

    Independent Variables

    The primary independent variable is the objective evalua-tion of the neighborhoods physical environments, based on theneighborhood selection criteria outlined above. The pedestrian-oriented TN is coded as a 1; the automobile-oriented MSN iscoded as a 0. This variable represents the direct relationshipbetween the pedestrian environment and sense of community.Also included, as an indirect link between sense of communityand the pedestrian environment, are residents subjective eval-uations of their neighborhood pedestrian environment. Thisis represented in three variables: perceptions of walking intheir neighborhood, reported strolling behavior within theirneighborhood, and reported destination walking behaviorwithin their neighborhood. Perception of walking in onesneighborhood is evaluated using a replica of a scale used inHandys (1996) study of walking behavior in TNs and MSNs.The scale consists of eleven items (see Table 1) that address the

    Pedestrian Environments and Sense of Community 305

    Figure 2. Representative photographs of the study area.

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  • pedestrian conditions of comfort, safety, and appeal. Respon-dents rate each item on a five-point scale, ranging from stronglydisagree (1) to strongly agree (5), and the final scores are then col-lapsed into a single perception of walking in the neighbor-hood score. Reported walking behaviors were measured byasking the respondents how many times in the past thirty daysthey had walked or strolled in their neighborhood (for per-sonal or recreational purposes) and how many times duringthe same period they had walked to a local store or business.These questions were also drawn from Handy (1996).

    Dependent Variable

    To measure sense of community, household surveysincluded the Psychological Sense of Community (PSC) Scaledeveloped by Nasar and Julian (1995). This tool was selectedfor its ability to measure sense of community at the individuallevel and to detect differences across neighborhoods, as well asfor its reliability (Chronbachs alpha score of .87). Also, due tospace constraints on the survey, the length of the eleven-itemscale was practical.

    Control Variables

    As discussed previously, five variables were controlled to theextent possible in the neighborhood selection phase. The firstfouraccess to a neighborhood commercial area, highwayaccess, access to transit, and topographywere controlled dueto the influence that they may have, above and beyond neigh-borhood design elements, on walking activity. Both neighbor-hoods are adjacent to a shopping area and a major transitroute, are near a major highway, and have a flat terrain. Thequality of the commercial pedestrian environment and fre-quency of transit service, however, were not controlled forbecause these aspects reflect fundamental differences in TNsand MSNs. The fifth variable, median household income, wascontrolled to avoid the wide range of issues that arise whencomparing a higher income neighborhood with a lowerincome neighborhood, in terms of both pedestrian activityand sense of community. Both neighborhoods, however, haveincome variation within them, allowing the study to examinethe influence of this variable on sense of community.

    Also controlled, through the regression model, were fourdemographic variables that may influence sense of communityaccording to past research. These are number of young chil-dren (younger than six years) in the household, householdtenure (1 = owner, 0 = renter), length of neighborhood

    residency (in years), and approximate household income.Each is expected to have a positive relationship with sense ofcommunity. Because only household information was col-lected, individual variables such as age and gender could notbe included in the analysis, although these factors have alsobeen identified as potential influences.

    Table 2 presents a summary of the variables used as well asthe mean values and standard deviations for each neighbor-hood. Please note, however, that the only analysis to utilizemean values is the neighborhood comparison of PSC scores.The remaining analyses are conducted for all respondents, atthe individual level, where having a wide standard deviation ismore important to finding significance than is having dissimi-lar neighborhood mean values.

    Data Collection

    Surveys were dropped off with a cover letter and returnenvelope (no return postage) at the doorstep of every housingunit within the selected sites. Due to resource and time con-straints, no follow-up was conducted. The cover letterrequested that the survey be filled out by the adult residentprimarily responsible for most of the household shopping(this was intended to get more information about local shop-ping behavior). Approximately 260 surveys were delivered ineach neighborhood, for a rough total of 520. Of these, 57 (22.0

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    Table 1.Correlations between mean perception of walking inneighborhood item scores and mean psychological

    sense of community score.

    Item in Perception of Walking Correlationin Neighborhood Scale Coefficient

    I often see neighbors I know when I walk .613***I like to look at interesting houses when I walk .440***I feel safe walking in my neighborhood during

    the evening .436***I feel safe walking in my neighborhood during

    the day .434***I like to see other people when I walk .416***The houses in my neighborhood are interesting .386***I feel comfortable walking when it is hot .207**There is too much car traffic in my neighborhood .170*I feel comfortable walking where there are no

    sidewalks in my neighborhood .166I often see people I do not know when I walk .161The trees in my neighborhood provide enough

    shade .017

    *p = .10. **p = .05. ***p = .01.

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  • percent) were returned from the TNand 49 (18.8 percent) from the MSN.While the percentages indicate afairly low return rate, the returnedsurveys do represent about one-fifthof the larger population.

    Research Limitations

    The most obvious limitation to thisstudy is that of sample size, regardingboth the number of neighborhoodsincluded and the somewhat lowresponse rates within those neighbor-hoods. Strengthening the validity ofthe findings, however, is the generalrepresentativeness of both the surveyrespondents and the selected neigh-borhoods. Similarities and differ-ences between respondents and theneighborhood as a whole are describedbelow and summarized in Table 3.The strong degree to which theselected neighborhoods reflect thedesigns and characteristics of TNsand of postWorld War II suburbs isdescribed in Neighborhood Selection.

    As portrayed in Table 3, homeownership rates and lengths of resi-dency among respondents areroughly comparable, in both neigh-borhoods, to 1996 census data for theblock group in which their neighbor-hood is located. Respondents in bothneighborhoods slightly overrepresentmiddle- to high-income households($60,000 or more) and under-repre-sent low- to middle-income house-holds (less than $60,000), yet even inthe most severe case (the modern sub-urb), low- to middle-income groupsstill compose nearly one-half of the respondents. Of thesociodemographic variables collected in the household survey,it appears that only one factorthe overrepresentation ofhouseholds with children (and the subsequent underrepre-sentation of single-person households)may potentiallyaffect the validity of this studys findings. As theoverrepresentation of households with children is almost

    equal in each neighborhood, this factor is unlikely to affect thevalidity of the neighborhood comparison; it does, however, sug-gest that the findings may be more representative of these house-holds than of nonchildren households.

    The relatively small sample size was also compensated forby conducting the regression analysis (which composes thebulk of the analysis presented in this article) at the household

    Pedestrian Environments and Sense of Community 307

    Table 2.Summary of study variables and neighborhood values.

    Traditional Suburban

    M SD M SD

    Independent variablesNeighborhood layout (1 = pedestrian oriented,

    0 = auto oriented) 1 0Perception of walking in neighborhood (1 = strongly disagree,

    2 = disagree, 3 = not sure, 4 = agree, and 5 = strongly agree) 2.92 0.43 2.57 0.66Number of strolling trips within past thirty days 17.73 16.91 9.39 13.56Number of destination walk trips within past thirty days 11.31 10.07 3.02 6.38

    Dependent variableOverall psychological sense of community score

    (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = not sure, 4 = agree,and 5 = strongly agree) 2.88 0.52 2.45 0.63Sense of community scale items

    I am quite similar to most people who live here. 2.42 0.86 2.29 1.01If I feel like talking, I can generally find someone in

    this neighborhood to talk to right away. 2.65 0.79 1.82 1.25I do not care whether this neighborhood does well.a 0.25 0.47 0.76 0.83The police in this neighborhood are generally friendly. 2.62 0.70 2.47 0.8People here know they can get help from others in the

    neighborhood if they are in trouble. 2.89 0.71 2.67 1.02My friends in this neighborhood are part of my

    everyday activities. 2.29 1.17 1.48 1.05If I am upset about something personal, there is no

    one in this neighborhood to whom I can turn.a 1.25 1.05 2.04 1.14I have no friends in this neighborhood on whom I

    can depend.a 0.84 0.94 1.55 1.17If there were a serious problem in this neighborhood,

    the people here could get together to solve it. 2.89 0.79 2.61 0.84If someone does something good for this

    neighborhood, that makes me feel good. 3.32 0.66 3.14 0.54If I had an emergency, even people I do not know in

    this neighborhood would be willing to help. 2.93 0.75 2.80 0.76Control variables

    Number of young children (younger than six years)in household 0.40 0.75 0.22 0.51

    Length of residency in neighborhood (years) 13.16 13.76 11.63 10.64Household tenure (1 = owner occupied,

    0 = renter occupied) 0.79 0.41 0.76 0.43Approximate median household income

    (1 = < $20,000, 2 = $20,000-$39,999, 3 = $40,000-$59,999,4 = $60,000-$79,999, 5 = $80,000-$99,999, and6 = $100,000+) 3.48 1.43 3.70 1.52

    a. Item is reverse coded when computing overall psychological sense of community score.

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  • unit (n = 106), rather than focusingon neighborhood-level (n = 2)analysis.

    A second limitation was that onlyone measure of community was incor-porated into the study. As manyresearchers have pointed out, com-munity comes in a variety of forms(Mann 1954; Unger and Wanders-man 1985; Skjaeveland, Garling, andMaeland 1996) and is unlikely to befully captured in a single eleven-itemscale. Due to space constraints on thesurvey, it was decided that this studywould focus on the PSC, as enhancingsense of community is a commonlycited New Urbanism goal. It is sug-gested, however, that future, morecomprehensive studies address multi-ple dimensions of communitysentiment.


    Neighborhood Comparison

    An analysis of variance of the mean PSC values by neighbor-hood reveals that not only is sense of community at the neigh-borhood level higher in the TN (2.88, compared to 2.44 in theMSN), this difference is significant at the 99 percent confi-dence level (mean square = 4.91, F = 14.88, p < .01).

    Sense of Community Model

    To help understand the relative correlation between eachindependent variable and PSC as well as the overall contribu-tion of neighborhood variables relative to that of demographicvariables, a hierarchical regression model was used (see Table4 for results of the regression analysis). The first modelincludes only the household demographic variablesnumberof young children, length of neighborhood residency, house-hold tenure, and household incomeand accounts for 15 per-cent of the total variation in PSC (R2 = .15, F = 4.18, p < .01). Ofthese variables, only the number of young children variable issignificantly correlated with PSC ( = .27, t = 2.77, p < .01), with

    household tenure showing a mild correlation ( = .20, t = 1.69,p < .10).

    In the second model, only the objective evaluation of thepedestrian environment (the neighborhood variable) isadded. This provides a statistically significant increase of 9 per-cent in the explanatory power of the model (R2 change = .38, Fchange = 17.87, p < .01). Adding this variable also reduces theamount of variation in PSC that is explained by the number ofyoung children.

    The third model includes all the above variables, plus thesubjective evaluations of the neighborhood pedestrian envi-ronment. Adding the subjective variables into the model morethan doubles its explanatory power, jumping from explainingless than one-quarter (24 percent) of the variation in PSC toexplaining more than one-half (53 percent) (R2 change = .29,F change = 18.22, p < .01). It also reduces the relative influenceof the objective neighborhood variable, which becomes almostnonsignificant once the subjective variables are accounted for( = .15, t = 1.7, p < .10).

    Of the subjective variables, the perception of walking in theneighborhood variable is most significantly correlated withPSC ( = .52, t = 6.23, p < .01). This means that individuals with amore positive overall perception reported a higher PSC. Alsosignificant is the influence of strolling through ones neighbor-hood, which is positively correlated with PSC ( = .24, t = 2.28, p< .05). An unexpected finding, however, is the somewhat sig-nificant, negative relationship that appears in this modelbetween the number of destination walking trips and PSC ( =.22, t = 1.92, p < .10).

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    Table 3.Select household characteristics of respondents and their corresponding

    block group, by study area (in percentages).

    Traditional a Modernb

    Respondents Block Group Respondents Block Group

    Household ownership 78.9 68.7 75.5 73.8Households with children 42.2 20.5 48.0 19.0Single-person households 14.0 37.1 20.4 32.0Length of residency in unit

    Less than 5 years 45.6 42.9 53.1 36.65 to 9.9 years 15.8 14.6 6.1 19.610 years or more 38.6 42.5 40.8 43.7

    Approximate annual household incomeLess than $20,000 5.4 18.8 6.4 17.9$20,000-$59,999 51.8 50.0 40.4 56.7$60,000-$99,999 30.4 28.3 38.2 18.5$100,000 or more 12.5 2.9 14.9 7.0

    a. Block group boundary is identical to the study area boundary.b. Block group boundary is larger than the study area boundary.

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  • Correlations between Perception ofWalking in Neighborhood and PSC

    To further analyze the strongest relationship in thismodelthe influence of an individuals subjective view of thepedestrian environment on sense of communitya correla-tion between the items of the perception scale and the PSCscore (Table 1) proves very informative. The six variables withthe strongest PSC relationship all relate to three issues of thepedestrian environment: opportunities for social interaction,a safe walking environment, and an interesting walkingenvironment.

    Personal Attitudes

    In any comparison study of neighborhood behavior, theinfluence of residents personal attitudes and their ability toself-select the neighborhood that meets their needs and life-styles is always an issue. While self-selection was addressed inthis research only in terms of pedestrian behavior (the centralfocus of the larger study), it may be useful to include that analy-sis here as well, even though the link is an indirect one. Attitu-dinal data were collected using three attitude scales developedand identified by Kitamura, Mokhitarian, and Laidet (1997) as

    being strongly connected to pedestrian behavior. Theseincluded scales for two attitudes positively correlated withpedestrian behavior, protransit (Chronbachs alpha .67) andproenvironment (Chronbachs alpha .83), and one negativelycorrelated attitude, proautomobile mobility (Chronbachsalpha .52). For each of these scales, an analysis of variance ofthe mean values revealed no significant differences (at the 95percent confidence level) between the two neighborhoods.


    The result of the neighborhood comparison supports thefirst hypothesis that the TN residents have a higher sense ofcommunity than those of the suburban development. Somemay argue, however, that this difference cannot be attributedto neighborhood design altering residents behavior but is dueinstead to residents selecting neighborhoods based on the life-styles that that neighborhood supports. In other words, peoplewho value social interaction and being able to walk to theirdaily activities will move to a traditional-style neighborhood,where these behaviors are accommodated. And those whoplace a greater value on privacy and auto mobility will select amore modern-style suburban neighborhood. The results ofthe attitudinal data presented above, however, indicate that

    Pedestrian Environments and Sense of Community 309

    Table 4.Relative influence of demographic, objective pedestrian environment,

    and subjective pedestrian environment variables on psychological sense of community.

    Model 2: Model 3:Model 1: Objective Pedestrian Subjective Pedestrian

    Household Variables Only Environment Added Environment Added

    b t b t b tIntercept 11.84 3.35 3.35Number of young children .25 .27 2.77*** .20 .21 2.25** .22 .23 3.01***Household tenure .28 .20 1.69* .28 .19 1.78* .16 .11 1.14Approximate household income .01 .15 1.33 .07 .16 1.47 .02 .04 0.43Length of residency in neighborhood .06 .02 0.17 .00 .01 0.14 .00 .04 0.46Neighborhood layout .37 .31 3.28*** .18 .15 1.70*Perception of walking in neighborhood .55 .52 6.23***Trip frequency: strolling .01 .24 2.28**Trip frequency: destination .00 .22 1.92*

    R2 .15 .24 .53Adjusted R2 .12 .20 .49Standard error of the estimate .58 .55 .44Change statistics

    R2 .15 .09 .29F 4.18 10.74 18.22

    *p = .10. **p = .05. ***p = .01.

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  • this is not the case here: neighborhood variations in residentssense of community, at least to the extent that it is influencedby pedestrian behavior, was not a result of self-selection bias.

    The sense of community model reveals two demographicvariables that have at least a somewhat significant, positiveinfluence on PSC: owning your home and having childrenunder the age of six in the household. These findings are nei-ther new nor surprising (Unger and Wandersman 1982;Chavis, Hogge, and McMillan 1986; Buckner 1988;Skjaeveland, Garling, and Maeland 1996); however, the lack ofsignificance in the relationships between either householdincome or length of residency and PSC seems contradictory topast research (Glynn 1981; Buckner 1988; Skjaeveland,Garling, and Maeland 1996). The lack of a relationshipbetween income and PSC in this study may be due to the factthat mean household income was controlled through neigh-borhood selection, limiting the range of incomes. Length ofresidency, however, was not controlled for, and the range ofresidencies was large for both neighborhoods (see Table 2).The lack of significance for this variable (length of residency)should therefore be of great interest to the New Urbanismmovement; if long residency in a neighborhood is not neces-sary for the development of community, this strengthens thepotential for creating community in new neighborhood devel-opments. Also interesting is the elimination of the relationshipbetween household tenure and sense of community once theenvironmental variables were added into the model, indicat-ing either that sense of community is not limited to home own-ers or that home owners are more likely to be walkers.

    The significant correlation between each of the objectiveand subjective environmental variables and PSC provides greatsupport for the link between pedestrian environments andcommunity that is repeatedly suggested by planners anddesigners of neotraditional neighborhoods. Being that themost influential, however, appears to be peoples subjectiveview of the walking in their neighborhood, this indicates thatthere is a great need for further research into how people per-ceive physical environments and what influences these percep-tions. The results of the correlation analysis indicate that thethree areas particularly deserving of attention in both researchand planning are what makes a person feel safe walking in hisor her neighborhood and how this can be addressed throughdesign, how to create environments that are interesting topedestrians, and how to design neighborhoods so that they areconducive to social interaction.

    An interesting twist in the model is the negative correlationbetween destination trips, including walks to the store, andPSC. Why would strolling trips have a positive correlation with

    sense of community and destination trips have a negative cor-relation, when both are being made within the sameneighborhood environment? One possible explanation maybe that the choice to make these trips is based more on neces-sity, as opposed to the more pleasure-driven strolling trips. Inother words, whereas strollers may be choosing to walkthrough their neighborhood because they feel like being apart of the neighborhood or they feel like running into andmaybe even socializing with their neighbors, destination walk-ers may more often be walking purely out of necessity or undertime constraints. They may not feel like being, or have the timeto be, disturbed by their neighbors or to enjoy their sur-roundings. They are also more likely to be limited in theirroute choices. Whereas strollers can choose the safest andmost pleasant route, or the one where they know they are morelikely to run into a neighbor, destination walkers will typicallychoose the most direct route. If this route is not as pleasant asthey may wish, this may contribute to a decreased sense ofcommunity.

    The Environmental Determinism Critique

    Any discussion of designing physical environments in anattempt to shape or encourage certain behaviors, such as in thecase of New Urbanism where TN designs are intended toencourage walking, sense of community, and so forth, will facethe critique of being deterministic. The concern is that plan-ners and designers are trying to create their ideal community,in terms of both design and behaviors, rather than accommo-dating Americans actual desires and lifestyles. In response, Iwould first like to point out that designing a neighborhood in aparticular way is not going to force people into a behavior orlifestyle that they do not wish to partake in, unless there are noother alternatives available. Residents of TNs can still live pri-vate lives, can still shop outside their neighborhood, and canstill use automobiles as their primary form of transportation.Secondly, the popularity of New Urbanism developments, plusthe findings by researchers that there already appear to bemore interaction, less automobile travel, and a greater sense ofplace among the residents of these new communities, indi-cates that there actually is a demand for traditional-style neigh-borhoods and their associated lifestyles. In sum, people whodesire the suburban way of life still have that opportunitytheconventional American suburb is likely to be around for along, long timebut now, people who desire a more close-knit, self-sufficient neighborhood are being given that oppor-tunity as well.

    310 Lund

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  • Conclusion

    The purpose of this article was to investigate the relation-ship between sense of community and pedestrian environ-ments in two neighborhoods of varying designs. One TN andone modern suburb in Portland, Oregon, were evaluatedusing the PSC Scale developed by Nasar and Julian (1995).Through hierarchical regression, it was determined that vari-ables related to the neighborhood pedestrian environment,including both objective and subjective evaluations, contrib-ute significantly to PSC, above and beyond important demo-graphic factors. Of these environmental variables, subjectiveevaluations were of greater significance than the objective eval-uation. PSC was also determined to be significantly higher inthe TN than in the conventional suburban neighborhood.These findings coincide with the claims being made by advo-cates of neotraditional neighborhood designs and provide fur-ther support for developing community in the context ofneighborhood.

    This study begins to lend some credence to the ability ofplanners, urban designers, and architects to design neighbor-hoods in a way that promotes a feeling of community amongtheir residents. It only scratches the surface, however, of therelationship between a neighborhoods physical environmentand the strength and nature of its social environment. Furtherresearch is clearly needed to understand which elements(physical, political, social, economic, demographic, personal,etc.)or combination of elementsstrengthen and/orweaken which forms of community within the context ofneighborhoods. This will require not only an understanding ofthe neighborhood environment and the larger social andpolitical context in which this neighborhood resides but alsoan understanding of who actually lives in the neighborhoodsand how their attitudes and expectations influence their per-ceptions and feelings of community. How can we plan anddesign a neighborhood without knowing who lives or is goingto be living there? As these areas of research expand, we will bein a better position to evaluate the potential for neotraditionalneighborhood design and to inform designers and planners asthey attempt to implement theseand otherdesigntechniques.

    Authors Note: I am grateful to Professor Nancy Chapman for her invalu-able comments and suggestions on earlier drafts and to the three anonymousreferees and the editors of this journal who helped me to strengthen and fo-cus this article. I would also like to thank Paul Niebanck for encouragingme to publish my work in the first place. All errors and oversights are myown.


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