A Spatial Syntax for Perceived Safety in Urban Environments : for Application in Urban Planning

University essay from KTH/Geoinformatik

Abstract: Perceived safety is an important aspect of urban planning and is generally treated as an objective account of the personal sense of safety of each individual. The subject is inherently diffuse and therefore problematic to understand and evaluate in its entirety.This thesis builds on the practice of space syntax theory and the field of research that has sprung up around it, focused on quantifying urban qualities. A spatial syntax dedicated to perceived safety in urban environments is suggested, based on common themes in research and policy documents on the topic. Features that were considered to influence perceived safety were identified and their effects mapped with the use of standard GIS implementations. The effort aimed at introducing a quantitative approach to evaluation of perceived safety which is presently performed mainly in a qualitative manner. The features were quantified in the sense that their area of effect was mapped, which enabled measurements of the size and shape of their area of effect or number of features influencing a point in space. The mapped features have been listed below.• Field of view• Entrance locations• Active ground floors (e.g. storefronts and entrances available for public use)• Public lighting• Unclear landuseThe suggested methods were applied to the Stockholm suburb Skärholmen which currently suffers from lower perceived safety than the entire municipality and consists of an urban structure not considered to facilitate perceived safety by todays urban planning ideals.The methods were evaluated by reviewing the benefits of quantitative descriptions compared to written account, and through discussing the results with professionals at the planning office at the Municipality of Stockholm.The suggested syntax proved to have potential for concretizing the present planning process with respect to perceived safety. GIS is currently used in other aspects of urban planning and could be adapted to treat perceived safety. There would however be need for further standardization and a more user-friendly workflow.

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