Building safer public spaces: Exploring gender difference in the perception of safety in public space through urban design interventions
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Concern around personal safety is a significant factor in constraining women’s access to and use of public space. One strategy presented to address this involves altering the design of built environments. However, tension and controversy surround these arguments in the literature on safety perception in public space. This study seeks to explore whether the presence of three design interventions commonly cited in the literature act to enhance or reduce perceptions of safety in public space, focusing on women’s experiences in particular. Three design in-terventions are examined: public toilets, solid walls, and graffiti removal. To test these interventions, an image based randomised control trial with 104 participants was conducted in 2018 in London (UK). A series of control and treatment images simulating each design intervention was viewed and ranked by participants according to perceived safety. The findings of this study suggest that: the presence of public toilets does not affect perceived safety; eliminating graffiti has a weak significant impact on perceived safety; and removing solid walls leads to significant improvements of perceptions of safety, with the effect being stronger for women. These results suggest that to maximise investment effectiveness, urban design and planning policies that aim to increase perceptions of safety should be evidence-based, and need to integrate a gendered perspective. The presented technique could support urban design processes by examining the safety-enhancement impact of proposed public space in-terventions prior to their being rolled out.
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Quote ItemLandscape and Urban Planning Volume 214, October 2021, 104180