In quest of ‘forgiving’ environment: residential planning and pedestrian safety in Edmonton, Canada
The creation of ‘forgiving’ environments, meaning environments designed to minimize accident risk, has long been a planning ideal. The effects on pedestrians are not well documented, however, even for those residential areas built in accordance with the planning and design concepts that have had the greatest practical influence in North America over the past 60 or 70 years. These concepts are well represented in Edmonton, which made it an appropriate setting for a comparative case study. Five distinctive neighbourhood types were identified and mean pedestrian accident rates were calculated for each of them. Differences in accident patterns were then related to changes in those environmental features that Edmonton’s planners had been most concerned to manipulate in the interest of pedestrian safety. The analysis revealed significant decreases in pedestrian accidents associated with two major innovations in planning practice. The first was the adoption of neighbourhood unit planning in the 1950s and the second was the comprehensive planning of entire new suburbs, which began in the 1970s. The latter areas are very safe by any standard, though it was found, contrary to expectation, that equipping some neighbourhoods with Radburn-style walkways had no appreciable bearing on this result.