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

  • Posted On: November 4, 2017

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 the issue.

Large transport infrastructure and motorised traffic limit the mobility of older people. Concerns about safety and the unpleasant experience of being exposed to traffic deter the 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 high-speed traffic.

This autumn, the Street Mobility & Network Accessibility project studied four cases of community severance in the UK, including in Southend-on-Sea. Researchers of University College London (UCL) picked the Queensway, a busy, dual carriageway. the project has resulted in a toolkit on how to address community severance.


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

At the same time, Street Mobility & Network Accessibility project has used typically quantitative 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’.

Community severance is a problem in Southeend-on-Sea, says Krithika Ramesh 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 SUNRISE. The Queensway runs through the neighbourhood where it will run a pilot.

Further information