Title

A study of walking and walkability through a spatial justice/spatial practice framework, in Maylands, Western Australia

Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Arts and Humanities

Abstract

Recent studies have focused on the benefits of walking to health, wellbeing, creativity and social capital. However, apart from select ethnographic observations on walking as a distinct spatial practice (J. Lee & Ingold, 2006), there is a paucity of studies that investigate the ways in which walkers and space interact. Most importantly, there has been a distinct lack of attention to pedestrian perspectives and experiences in theory and in policy on walkability (Middleton, 2011, 2016).

Notable theorists have demonstrated the benefits of participatory walking practices as a conversive and convivial methodology for performance research (Myers, 2009), for intergenerational urban pedagogy (L. G. Phillips & Hickey, 2013), and for investigations into everyday experience (Bendiner-Viani, 2009). This study builds on this research by employing walking as a participatory research method to investigate walking as a distinct spatial practice.

There has been a recent call for the development of methods to interrogate mobility inequities (Sheller, 2016). The need for a critical approach to the production of walkable neighbourhoods has also been identified (Zavestoski & Agyeman, 2015). This thesis contributes knowledge to both of these problems by investigating walking and walkability through a spatial justice/spatial practice approach. This work also problematises the commodification of walkability and, as a result, highlights participants’ values of everyday walking practices.

This investigation used participatory walking research methods, employing walking interviews and walking workshops. Data was collected from inhabitants, aged 5 – 80, from Maylands, an inner urban suburb of Perth, Western Australia. A theoretical model for spatial justice in spatial practice is developed from the research data. The model integrates three identified core values of spatial practice: accessibility, interactions and belonging. The knowledge contributed by this thesis can inform a holistic approach to walking and walkability that achieves the outcome of greater spatial resilience for inhabitants.

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