Researchers study the ‘barrier effect’ in Southend-on-Sea

This autumn in Southend-on-Sea, the Street Mobility & Network Accessibility project conducted a study into how transport infrastructure impedes residents to move around freely. The project offers local authorities a toolkit on to deal with this issue.

Large transport infrastructure and motorised traffic limit the mobility of older people. The unpleasant experience of being exposed to traffic and concerns about safety deter elderly from going for a walk to nearby places.

Such physical or psychological barriers are known as ‘community severance’ or as ‘the barrier effect’. The causes are large infrastructure, large volumes of traffic or traffic with high speed.

This autumn, the Street Mobility & Network Accessibility project studied four cases of community severance in the UK. Researchers of University College London (UCL) picked the Queensway, a busy, dual carriageway in Southend-on-Sea. The aim of the project is to develop tools for overcoming community severance which is now available.

The Queensway in Southend-on-Sea (image: Google Street View)


The researchers used different methods to understand community severance. During community workshops, residents were invited to map their ‘patterns of movement’, while surveys asked residents to describe their social networks and travel behaviour.

At the same time, Street Mobility & Network Accessibility project has used typically qualitative methods, including video analysis of pedestrian behaviour. On 6 and 7 October, cameras were installed at the Queensway between 7:00 and 22:00.

The project is currently working on a closer analysis, including an inventory of crossings and pedestrianised areas on and around the Queensway, which will result in a typology of streets with similar problems. Further data on the neighbourhood – residential density, land use and population – will help build a ‘walkability index’.

The Queensway cuts through Southend-on-Sea (image: OpenStreetMap)

Community severance is the starting point of the project, Krithika Ramesh explains in an interview about the SUNRISE project. ‘Southend’s infrastructure causes community severance and does not encourage walking, cycling and social interaction’.

The results from the Street Mobility & Network Accessibility project are a starting point for Southend’s activities in the SUNRISE project. The Queensway runs through the neighbourhood where the Southend Borough Council run a pilot.


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