Participatory mapping activates community mobility

The Street Mobility & Network Accessibility project at University College of London (UCL)  maps transport infrastructure barriers to community mobility. Muki Haklay and Louise Francis present a participatory mapping module in the project Toolkit. Illustrating concepts and practical advice, the module offers a case study of a collaborative mapping project in Southend-on-sea, UK.

The Street Mobility project creates tools to understand community severance – the impact of transport infrastructure, streets, and traffic on the movement of local people. Also called the “barrier effect”, community severance has social and economic consequences. Barriers can be psychological or physical. For example, longer pedestrian routes can affect access and make people feel unsafe. Heavy traffic can put off community members looking to make a trip.

The Toolkit offers methods to evaluate community severance and understand its relationship with community mobility and health where social inclusion and connectedness is linked to personal and community wellbeing, particularly for vulnerable and older members. The project uses participatory mapping to collect and apply local knowledge on road use and traffic.

The Toolkit identifies different types of mapping. Planning and executing participatory mapping, which suggests first visiting and identifying community locations, dynamics, institutions, and leaders; community engagements, which can capture local knowledge in one or more of three ways; rapid appraisal mapping which asks for brief input on a local map from a member of the public in the street; and, community mapping workshops that offer a way for participants to spot issues and discuss them in detail. In-depth individual interviews also allow participants to share insights and experiences.    

In the featured case study, residents of Southend-on-sea weigh in on Queensway, a local main road. Over 50 people from the affected area take part in surveys, informal mapping sessions, and intensive participatory mapping workshops to pin down issues. The exercise reveals problems related to pedestrian safety and provides primary local information and views.       

Mordechai (Muki) Haklay is Professor of Geographical Information Science, Director of the UCL Chorley Institute for Spatial Information Science, and co-director of the interdisciplinary Extreme Citizen Science research group (ExCiteS), at the University College of London (UCL). Louise Francis is Research Associate in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering Science, UCL. Haklay and Francis are co-founders in the social enterprise Mapping for Change.

Photo: Ciarán Mooney/Flickr/cc

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