Pedestrian-oriented design and sense of community: a comparative study
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The primary objective of the research is to examine the attempt of new urbanism principles to promote a sense of community through its pedestrian-oriented design guidelines of neighborhoods. The following questions will be addressed to examine the subject. First, do residents of a new urbanism neighborhood have a higher level of sense of community than residents of a typical suburban neighborhood? Second, is there an evidential support that pedestrian-oriented design features of new urbanism enhance the sense of community in a neighborhood? Finally, do residents of a pedestrian-oriented design neighborhood have more out-of-door activities in their neighborhood than residents of a typical suburban neighborhood? To examine the relationship between neighborhood design and sense of community, a comparative study was conducted in four subdivision neighborhoods located in the Houston metropolis, Texas. The first two neighborhoods exhibit pedestrian-oriented design principles and features of new urbanism, although each to different degrees. The other two neighborhoods are typical suburban neighborhoods that are not specifically designed to accommodate pedestrians and usually have less public spaces. The methods of collecting data are self-administered questionnaires, systematic observations, and unstructured interviews of residents in the four neighborhoods. The research findings provide evidence that the residents in pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods have a higher level of supportive acts of neighboring (SAON) and neighborhood attachment & weak social ties (NA&WST) than those of typical suburban neighborhoods. The findings also provide partial support for the relationships between the design factor (pedestrian-oriented design) and two dimensions of sense of community investigated-SAON and NA&WST. Additionally, the findings strongly indicate that the social processes, measured through selected demographic and nonenvironmental design variables, have their own unique and vital role on the sense of community in the neighborhoods, and that physical design has no impact on the way the social processes work on the sense of community in the neighborhood. The roles of physical design and social process are independent from each other. Finally, the results partially support the hypothesis that residents of pedestrian-oriented design neighborhoods have a higher level of out-of-door activities than residents of typical suburban neighborhoods.