The Barrier Effect

Just over a week ago I wrote about barriers in the urban fabric. Looking at the case of Örebro, I was wondering what impact the railway has on people living on the West. It is namely, the people at the West side of town who have to cross the railway when they want to go to the city centre.

The pedestrian and cycling tunnel that allows people to cross from the west side of town to the east, and vice versa.

The pedestrian and cycling tunnel that allows people to cross from the west side of town to the east, and vice versa.

So, I wanted to test what effect this barrier has on traveling to the city centre. I started by selecting two neighbourhoods, one on each side of the tracks. These neighbourhoods were selected for similarities such as: in urban design, employment rate, income, and ethnicity. Within these I selected two streets which are both located at 1.1 km from Örebro’s main square, a distance which is easy to walk or cycle. I went to these streets, armed with my questionnaire, and asked the residents to respond (Likert scale) to a series of statements.

The respondents in both places see their neighbourhood as a good  space for walking and cycling. All the respondents use non-motorized transportation to travel to and from the city centre, walking seems more popular in the West, while people in the East tend to take the bicycle. None of the respondents perceived any obstacles (which was defined as: anything that bothers you on your way to the centre).

I was surprised when people on the West seemed to have less problems walking home at night. They have to pass the tunnel in the dark.

One of the most important variables in my research was the travel frequency to the city centre, since it would say something about how well integrated/connected the areas are with the city centre. The results were clear, people from the East travel much more frequent to the centre than people on the West. Two-thirds of the people on the East travel 5 days a week or more to the centre, compared to only one-third of the people of the West. At the West, two-thirds of the people make this trip three times a week or less.

In addition to the statements, I asked the respondents for a comment, to see if there were things that I had not taken in account. After looking at these comments a trend seemed to emerge, people in the East talk about practical stuff, like bad asphalts, and people on the West talk about being scared at night. This was odd because it was a reversed trend than appeared from my earlier findings.

I continued to investigate. The comments by the people in the West were mostly crime related. This part of town had been terrorized by a rapist, and violence related crime. Could perceived crime be the reason why people from the West travel less to the centre than people on the East?

I reworked the qualitative into quantitative data, showing either if people were scared of perceived crime or not. I then checked if the area that people live in affects their travel frequency and controlled for perceived crime (using my newly created variable). The result: while controlling for perceived crime, the place where people live, either the East or the West, has a significant influence on their travel frequency.

For the real nerds:

The statistical output. Area is the Neighbourhood, Scarcom is the new variable based on being scared of crime

The statistical output. Area is the Neighbourhood, Scarcom is the new variable based on being scared of crime

Written by Sascha Benes. Follow him on Twitter, Linkedin and .