Perceptions of the Built Environment in the Hamra Neighborhood (Beirut, Lebanon) and the Effects on Walkability
Christina Teokari, Atkins
The paper aims to examine the factors that affect walkability in Hamra neighbourhood through surveys about perceptions of the built environment and interviews that will determine other factors that might affect the walking experience.
‘If there is a history of walking, then it too has come to a place where the road falls off, a place where there is no public space and the landscape is being paved over, where leisure is shrinking and being crushed under the anxiety to produce, where bodies are not in the world but only indoors in cars and buildings, and an apotheosis of speed makes those bodies seem anachronistic or feeble.’ – Solnit (2000)
Walkability is defined as the extent to which the built environment encourages conducting walking trips (Said et al., 2014). This paper explores the factors that affect walkability of Hamra neighbourhood in Beirut, Lebanon. Hamra is a cosmopolitan district in Beirut with a predominantly mixed land-use pattern. It can be best described as an urban landscape lacking adequate street furniture, monuments, and most importantly green spaces as it is experiencing a rise in the commercialization and privatization of its core veins (Seidman, 2012). The key aims of this study are to determine the extent people use walking as a mode of transport in the neighbourhood while trying to examine their perceptions of the built environment. The methodology will include surveys that will reveal people’s perceptions about the sidewalks, crossings, street furniture, on-street obstacles, neighbourhood safety, neighbourhood aesthetics, familiar faces around the neighbourhood, and car-driver behaviours as well as their attitudes and preferences that may affect their decision to walk. By asking people how much they walk during a normal week and how long they are willing to walk in Hamra, the results can be related to their perceptions and their average relative satisfaction of the built environment characteristics. Moreover, interviews will help shed more insight on what factors affect the walking experience as a whole in this neighbourhood. These will determine if certain factors not captured in the survey, such as political instability or other context-specific factors, affect people's decisions to walk. More importantly it will also potentially highlight the drastic and unique changes this neighbourhood has witnessed over the past couple of years as it was affected by the influx of around 2 million Syrian refugees into the Lebanese boarders, and how this has affected the urban landscape and possibly walkability.
Association for European Transport