Sociology, Department of


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Hill, Michael R. 1984. Walking, Crossing Streets and Choosing Pedestrian Routes: A Survey of Recent Insights from the Social/Behavioral Sciences, by Michael R. Hill. (University of Nebraska Studies, No. 66). Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska.


Copyright 1984 Michael R. Hill


Walking at first appears to be a relatively simple, mundane behavior that should pose no great puzzle for the diligent researcher in the social and behavioral sciences. The review presented here of recent studies, however, demonstrates that the behavior and experiences of ordinary pedestrians are filled with opportunities for empirical investigation and intricate theory building. But, why bring these studies together for synthesis in this volume? I suggest here that there are, in fact, several reasons that argue in favor of a timely focus on the apparently simple behavior of the pedestrian.

First, the deceptive simplicity of the pedestrian experience provides an excellent empirical focus for examination of a wide range of topics prominent in recent work in the emerging field of human-environment studies. Readers unfamiliar with the scope and intensity of research in this interdisciplinary enterprise would

do well to consult the pages of Environment and Behavior; Man Environment Systems; Environment and Planning; the annual proceedings of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA); and the topical volumes in the new review series entitled Human Behavior and Environment: Advances in Theory and Research, edited by Irwin Altman, Amos Rapoport, and Joachim Wohlwill. Even summary consideration of the many topics that have become the focus of considerable investigation in the last decade reveals that empirical and conceptual work regarding territoriality, crowding, privacy, personal space, sensory overload and deprivation, approach-avoidance, navigation and orientation, mental mapping, search processes, and environmental perception, evaluation, and decision making all bear on various facets of the pedestrian experience. Empirical verification of the viability of these conceptual ideas reveals a void which the study of the pedestrian helps to fill. The inner processes and complexity of pedestrian behavior are far greater, for example, than the outward simplicity suggested by the simple geometrical representation of a pedestrian trip as a line connecting an origin and a destination. The complexity that lies behind this apparent simplicity provides a major challenge for the students of human-environment relations.