More Social, Connected Cities

The built environment of a city is networked and connected via its streets. Streets provide social, physical, and economic access, but they are often designed to favor the use of single-occupancy vehicles to the detriment of pedestrians. Slow zones - areas that are protected via speed limit reductions - are designed to be more pedestrian-friendly, encourage alternative modes of mobility, and create social gathering spaces. But how effective are slow zones at generating these results?

In a new paper for Cities, DUSP’s Arianna Salazar-Miranda, Cate Heine, Fabio Duarte, Katja Schechtner, and Carlo Ratti examine this question through the lens of Paris, a city that created several slow zones between 2010 and 2019. Leveraging the spatial and temporal boundaries of the policy as well as social media data, they demonstrate that relative to streets outside of slow zones, streets within slow zones attract a greater number of people from a wider geographic range of neighborhoods, contributing to social mixing. 

“Social media data allows us to study human behavior at high spatial and temporal resolutions," said Heine. "In this study, we used Twitter to construct novel measures of how people move across the city, allowing us to study the attractiveness of streets by tracing users’ movements.” 

“The results show that slowing cars in city centers can help create more buzzing and socially active streets," said lead author,  Salazar-Miranda."These results are timely, given the push to make cities more sustainable, and offer a precedent for other cities as they consider implementing similar policies to recover street space from cars and return it to pedestrians.” 

Read their full paper, "Measuring the impact of slow zones on street life using social media"