Idea of the Day: Pedestrian Propulsion

12 May

Have you ever noticed how a long walk feels much shorter when you’re in a densely-built urban area with a lot of other people on the street? Festivals or other events that create novel and rapidly-changing scenery around you can have the same effect. There’s a name for that: “Pedestrian propulsion.”

Areas that rank highly in pedestrian propulsion also have high rates of “compensation” – the visual and social payoff received in exchange for the time and energy required to walk.

That’s why it seems to take weeks to walk past a strip mall or just a block or two like this:

while walking somewhere interesting seems to take less time than it really does.

Speaking of pedestrian experiences, the vision for the “Midtown Mile” is being revamped. The idea of replicating a place like Chicago’s Miracle Mile is out the window, with planners now aiming for a area of shopping and restaurants that’s more everyday than special occasion. They hope to make it a constant draw for residents in and around midtown as well as the thousands office workers who come and go daily instead of a place mostly catering to tourists and the very well-off.

A similar re-think is afoot at the Streets of Buckhead project. The “Rodeo Drive of the South” concept, with high-dollar hotels, restaurants and boutiques intended to draw people from all over the region, is being toned down and will eventually even have a different name.


2 Responses to “Idea of the Day: Pedestrian Propulsion”

  1. Darin 05/17/2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Very cool — I hadn’t read about this ‘pedestrian propulsion’ idea before. But I’m certainly familiar with the experience of it. I get something akin to the ‘runner’s high’ when I’m taking a long walk through Atlanta streets. I lose track of time and distance and just keep walking constantly until I realize I’ve gone for a mile and a half without a break.


  1. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces « The Oppidan Omnibus - 10/13/2011

    […] also observed the way that high-quality public spaces contribute to pedestrian propulsion. Pedestrians’ “visual enjoyment” of a space – as they walk by and watch […]

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