A Census for City Streets
In a recent piece on Next City, Eric Scharnhorst discusses the Gehl database, which is full of physical data on how people use public spaces. Collectors record hourly pedestrian counts, gender, age, and stationary activities within the area (whether it's children playing, people walking through, waiting for transit, or sitting while eating lunch alone). Often, this provides advocates and urbanists the necessary quantified information to push for improvements in the public space arena.
Scharnhorst discusses how current databases such as the decennial Census and yearly American Community Survey lack indicators on urban diversity in the public space. While inequality exists in our residential patterns, how does that manifest itself in our public space usage habits?
In the piece, Scharnhorst writes about how "[the] reason cities don’t have this information is not because of technological limitations. It’s because of a shared resistance to doing the work in the first place. Although city planners map citywide Census-level socioeconomic categories like income and family size, they are hesitant to measure how people of different 'categories' mix in the public realm."