Scholarly article on topic 'Administration's Role in Managing Urban Pedestrian Accessibility'

Administration's Role in Managing Urban Pedestrian Accessibility Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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{"urban planning" / law / "transport equity" / "quality of life" / "urban development"}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Tudor Morar, Valentin Grecu, Ion Costescu

Abstract Romanian cities are facing pressure from an increasing number of vehicles, leading to an overall degradation of urban quality of life. As sustainable transportation is a key issue in European legislation, this paper seeks to underline the importance of the pedestrian environment by analyzing its past and present evolution. As the key factor in determining city shape and functionality is the administration, we will be looking at the role it plays in shaping the pedestrian environment of Romanian cities. The conclusions present common principles of managing pedestrian accessibility, drawn from the historical review, and offer guidelines for future management.

Academic research paper on topic "Administration's Role in Managing Urban Pedestrian Accessibility"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 92 (2013) 594 - 599

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Administration's Role in Managing Urban Pedestrian


Tudor Morara*, Valentin Grecub, Ion Costescuc

aTeaching Assistant, Architect, Polytechnic University of Timisoara, Architecture Faculty, Timisoara, Romania bPh.D Teaching Assistant, "Lucian Blaga" University, Faculty of Engineering, Sibiu, Romania cPh.D Prof., Eng., Polytechnic University of Timisoara, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Timisoara, Romania


Romanian cities are facing pressure from an increasing number of vehicles, leading to an overall degradation of urban quality of life. As sustainable transportation is a key issue in European legislation, this paper seeks to underline the importance of the pedestrian environment by analyzing its past and present evolution. As the key factor in determining city shape and functionality is the administration, we will be looking at the role it plays in shaping the pedestrian environment of Romanian cities. The conclusions present common principles of managing pedestrian accessibility, drawn from the historical review, and offer guidelines for future management.

© 2013TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Lumen Research Center in Social and Humanistic Sciences, Asociatia Lumen. Keywords: urban planning, law, transport equity, quality of life, urban development.

1. Introduction

Urban quality of life is a key factor of modern European cities. One of the indicators of quality of life is transportation (Doi, Kii, & Nakanishi, 2008). Transportation may be regarded from different perspectives, namely:

• Economic: the speed and quality of the transport network (the ease of trade)

• Environmental: the degree of air and noise pollution; fuel efficiency

• Social: equal rights and opportunities for all traffic participants (transport equity)

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +40 256 404 021; fax: +40 256 404 021 E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Lumen Research Center in Social and Humanistic Sciences, Asociatia Lumen. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.08.723

As urban transportation consists of four modes (private, public, bicycle and pedestrian), the excessive growth of one leaves little room for the others. This is the case for Romanian cities. It is known that vehicle ownership is directly linked with economic growth. As Romania has had constant economic growth in the last twenty years, the total number of vehicles has doubled since the beginning of the 1990s. As the development of the automotive industry is considered part of the economic growth strategy, public administrations have had to reconfigure the public realm to support personal mobility. Although the situation in Romanian cities has not reached a critical state, excepting the capital city of Bucharest where traffic jams create long delays for drivers, problems negatively affecting people in relation to the three concepts above exist, as shown in the next section. Sustainable urban mobility is a subject of great interest in the European Union, as shown by a number of official documents like the 2007 "Leipzig Charter", the report "Towards a new culture for urban mobility" and the 2012 "Action Plan for Urban Mobility". Several key concepts are presented in these documents, namely reducing energy consumption, reducing pollution and ensuring transport equity. This paper suggests possible solutions in relation to these issues by taking examples from Romanian cities.

2. Negative effects of the rise in private vehicle ownership in Romanian cities

"Transportation is the main source of noise pollution in Europe, and road traffic, the major cause of human exposure to noise, except for people living near airports and railway lines" (WHO, 2000, p. 9). O'Flaherty (1997) states that the estimated noise volume accepted for urban areas is 65dB/24h. If these levels fail to be respected, people may suffer from traffic stress, as confirmed by Miles, Coutts, and Mohamadi (2012). In Romania, these limits are regulated by the HG 321/2005 law. This law states that all cities above 250,000 inhabitants need to have noise maps that highlight areas where people are subject to noise pollution. However, European legislation specifies that all cities over 100,000 inhabitants have to present noise pollution reports. At present, Bucharest is the most noise-polluted city in Romania, but other county seats, like Braijov (Tarulescu, §oica, & Tarulescu, 2007), Drobeta Turnu Severin (Demian, Demian, Grecu, & Grecu, 2009) and Timisoara also have average noise levels over the regulated limits, and most of the pollution comes from road traffic noise.

According to Hidson and Müller (2003), in Europe, about 28% of greenhouse emissions come from transport, and 84% of this is from road transport. The same guide also states that, in Europe, more than 10% of carbon dioxide emissions come from road traffic in urban areas. The situation in Romania is no different, as shown by a WHO report (2011), which states that Gala^i is the only Romanian city with annual particulate matter PM 10 means under the maximum limit indicated by the World Health Organization.

At the same time, public transport usage is decreasing. In Romania's case, before the 1990s, public transport was the most used mode, with an average of 3.5 million passengers transported in 1992 compared to only 2.1 million in 2008 (Pavel, 2012). This situation leads to a decrease of sustainability indicators such as fuel/passenger, gas emissions and fair distribution of transport opportunities.

The above-mentioned issues prove the importance of studying pedestrian accessibility as a sustainable alternative to other transport modes. This type of accessibility could be especially effective for Romanian cities because of their relatively small size. The sections below present the evolution of pedestrian accessibility from the Middle Ages until present times, and the conclusions present some tools that city administrations may use to improve it.

3. A historical and present perspective on administration's role in pedestrian accessibility

As with most subjects related to human behavior, the historical and cultural background plays a central role in the way that a particular subject is developed today. The same principle can be applied to urban pedestrian accessibility. The decisions taken by city administrations varied during history according to technological developments and the geo-political environment.

As Romania is part of Eastern Europe, its cities have a historical background similar to other European cities. We will see that general rules applying to cities across Europe are confirmed by Romanian examples. We can consider the first stage of analysis the medieval city.

3.1. The medieval city

In medieval times administration was represented by landlords. The purpose of building cities was mostly defense against invasions. This had implications on two subjects related to pedestrian accessibility:

• Dimensions. The central point of the city was occupied by the marketplace. The city radius, measured from the marketplace to the defense wall, was 300-450m, meaning an 8-10 minute walk. This meant that the central market could be used on a daily basis by inhabitants.

• Street network. The street network was hierarchical, meaning that main streets that connected the marketplace to the gates were wider and allowed all kinds of traffic, while other streets were only for pedestrians. Also, pedestrian-only connections were present, in the form of passageways cutting through the built environment.

These two general principles are confirmed by Romanian examples, namely at the cities of Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca and Brasov. They all subscribe to the rule of the cathedral and main marketplace lying in the center, and main routes extending into the territory. In terms of total surface, Bra^ov's fortifications seem to encircle an area of about 0.60km2 and Cluj-Napoca's about 0.65km2. Approximate radiuses are 440m and 450m, confirming the hypothesis mentioned above. Sibiu's case shows a clear street hierarchy, with main streets connecting the central square to the gates and several alleys penetrating the densely built structures to create foot connections.

We can thus conclude that the medieval town was a self-organized pedestrian environment, which offers some basic guidelines in terms of distances and street hierarchy.

3.2. The Industrial Revolution

Before the 1850s, city transport was by foot and horseback, with the whole street surface being dedicated to these two means. With the Industrial Revolution, spanning the period from the 1850s to the beginning of the 1st World War, the street was divided into sections for motorized and non-motorized traffic participants.

When looking at the phenomena inside the city, we can consider the introduction of the horse tram as an important technological advance because of its advantages to the omnibus in terms of safety, noise and comfort. With two intermediary stages represented by steam-powered and cable-pulled trams, it paved the way for the main revolutionary system represented by the electric tram, which initiated a swift increase in public transport usage. Following these breakthroughs, starting in the 18th century, factories appeared outside cities because of the cheap land available. They gradually attracted housing and retail outlets because of the need for workers to be close to the sources of employment. The demand for new workers led to an influx of immigrants from the countryside, creating problems of overcrowding and poor health in the environment of iconic inner city slums.

Therefore, the goal of the administration was no longer to protect the city from outside threats, but to ensure the inside functionality by creating a healthy living environment. More specific planning regulations were needed, giving birth to urban planning as a discipline.

In Romania, the effects of the Industrial Revolution can be seen in the city shape and transportation systems of Transylvanian cities like Timi^oara, Arad and Oradea, where boulevards were laid out with profiles that integrated carriage, pedestrian and electric tram movements. In other Romanian cities, villages surrounding the main cities were connected by rail. The implications of rail travel on pedestrian movement were related to the placement of transport stations in relation to residences. For example, residential development around small railway stations often did not exceed a radius of 800m (as in villages like Lehiu-Gara, Vi^eu de Sus, Galbina§i etc.). Distances between tram stops were 400m to make the system efficient for pedestrians. Also, road profiles

included specific design elements such as street furniture and trees, with the purpose of creating a safe and comfortable pedestrian environment.

3.3. The socialist state

The socialist regime considered cities to be the main engines of economic growth. This is why urbanization experienced a period of rapid growth, raising the number of cities from 152 in 1948 to 260 in 1992.

City administrations planned city development through planning institutes where multidisciplinary teams developed projects that included both infrastructure and architecture. Development quality varied in the four decades according to budgets and planning goals, but the basic principles remained the same. Residential developments meant creating neighborhood units of 5000-7000 people around a communal civic center, which was a multi-purpose building containing daily-life facilities such as shops, postal office, pharmacy and so on. Containing four- to ten-storey apartment buildings, they were bordered by main traffic arteries with frequent public transport services. Examples of this type of planning can be found in smaller cities like Hunedoara and Resita, as well as in larger ones like Cluj-Napoca, Brasov and Ploiesti. Such neighborhood units (sometimes called "Micros") were extremely efficient for pedestrians since they had high population densities and accessible transport and retail services.

3.4. Current state of planning

If in the socialist era integrated planning was possible because of state-financed developments, today developments are private, meaning they are smaller in size and handle either residences or infrastructure, rather than both. This means that, today, integration of transport, living and services can only be reached through complex planning. In Romania, planning regulations state that cities are regulated by a single master plan (called a "PUG"). These PUGs are developed for a five- to ten-year period, and regulate all kinds of developments (industrial, commercial, residential, leisure and so on). Since such master plans need to be flexible to be able to cope with different economic situations, they cannot be specific enough to regulate pedestrian accessibility at neighborhood level. Neighborhood scale planning is regulated in Romania by zonal urban plans called PUZs, which have the role of detailing the above-mentioned PUGs. Since these plans are often commissioned by private investors, they turn into derogative urban plans by favoring specific investments, while the pedestrian environment is left among the last priorities. But, even if Romanian legislation required pedestrian accessibility to be a priority, until now, few national academic studies could be used to develop parametric guidelines. This is why the next section addresses the issue of managing pedestrian accessibility.

4. Principles for managing pedestrian accessibility

The German city of Essen was the first to turn a central street into pedestrian-only one in the 1930s but most pedestrian shopping areas emerged only in the 1960s (Jou, 2011). Romanian city administrations started the same process about ten years ago, and this trend is today reaching smaller cities such as Sebes and Lugoj. However, in order to reduce vehicle dependency, pedestrian accessibility should be addressed across the whole city structure, and creating car-free areas is a solution only for specially designed new neighborhoods (Melia, 2010).

This is why a working methodology would be one that could be applied to any urban form, and through which city administrations could objectively evaluate pedestrian access. Such a methodology has been developed by Morar and Bertolini (2012), namely suggesting specific service areas of different facilities, according to type and importance. For example, a playground may be considered accessible if it is within 150m, while parks have variable service areas, according to size, ranging from 150m to 1.6km. Population numbers within the service area may be assessed through the use of GIS, as seen in the study of Lotfi and Koohsari (2009). Based on the

results, important conclusions may be drawn regarding the integration of new developments in the existing structure or necessities of existing neighborhoods in terms of pedestrian accessibility. We have already performed such measurements in Timisoara by evaluating access to public spaces (Morar, Bertolini, & Radoslav, 2013).

5. Conclusions

This paper presents the current situation faced by Romanian cities, namely the decreasing quality of life due to the rise of private vehicle ownership. Since Romania is part of the European Union, city administrations need to follow European legislative guidelines. An important subject of these guidelines is sustainable mobility. We have thus shown that one of the ways of achieving sustainable mobility is planning for pedestrians. In order to better understand the Romanian context of pedestrian planning, we have conducted a historical review of three periods. The main conclusions that can be drawn from this review are that pedestrian planning is a type of neighborhood-scale planning, which has the goal of placing daily-life facilities within reach. Another aspect is infrastructure quality introduced by the separation of traffic flows during the Industrial Revolution. A final and last conclusion of the historical study is related to intervention size, meaning that the urban domain moved from a single landlord in medieval times to semi-public property during the Industrial Revolution, to state-owned during the socialist era and, finally, to relatively small private owners today. This means that an administration's decisions can no longer be authoritarian, but need to respond to specific needs, and can only handle the planning side, leaving the implementation to private investors. This is why we have suggested a flexible methodology that keeps track of specific service areas and evaluates which facilities have potentially low accessibility. After such an analysis is performed on a neighborhood, the administration may evaluate how parameters would change for different types of housing development. In other words, decisions may be taken to improve the present situation by either building new facilities (such as kindergartens or green squares) or renewing existing ones. Infrastructure quality may be checked through "walkability" tests adapted for specific geographical regions.

Building such a test could be part of future research. Other further research may mean integrating population data such as age and income to evaluate the specific needs of different neighborhoods, all with the aim of aiding public administrations make a better assessment of the urban pedestrian environment.


This work was partially supported by the strategic grant POSDRU 107/1.5/S/77265, inside POSDRU Romania 2007-2013 co-financed by the European Social Fund - Investing in People.


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