Our Physical Environment, Our Choices?: A comparison of urban design and pedestrian patterns along Kingston’s Princess Street
Introduction: The connection between the physical environment and pedestrian movements is frequently noted by urban designers. The physical environment can be assessed in relation to pedestrian activity in numerous ways. Among the most important are the urban designs of buildings and surrounding cityscape. This report seeks to compare the physical streetscape and pedestrian movements by focusing on Kingston, Ontario’s main downtown street, Princess Street. Two blocks with different urban designs were compared and pedestrian movements were assessed. Methods: The methods below were used to evaluate the pedestrian walking experience on two blocks of downtown Princess Street. The foci of this analysis were pedestrian patterns and the urban design. These were selected because literature that focuses on public life emphasizes how the urban design (and the general environment) influences the pedestrians who traverse the site. As a result, the findings generated from the methods created by Gehl and Whyte should validate and/or complement the data generated via Ewing and Clemente’s, and Crankshaw’s, methods from “Measuring Urban Design”. To avoid bias both evaluations were done independently. Results: The disparity between the East and West Block’s pedestrian patterns appears to correlate to differences in urban design, as described below. However, other confounding factors (e.g. land uses, and proximity to institutions and natural amenities) may have influenced these results. The slightly higher urban design rating on the East Block seemed to correlate to the increased number of pedestrians, the amount of time ‘stayed’ and the amount of time as an ‘active street’, and as such, comparison demonstrated correlation not causation. Recommendations: 1) The City of Kingston and/or a Queen’s School of Urban and Regional Planning student could conduct this or a similar study again after the reconstruction of the West Block is completed. This will provide more data on the influence of the intervention. 2) The City of Kingston should install way-finding systems along Princess Street to assist pedestrians. 3) The Business Improvement Association (BIA) should find a business to fill the vacant storefront on the East Block to improve pedestrian experiences.