In this paper, we evaluate different elements of the urban micro-scale environment in eight European capitals’ downtown areas (i.e. Vienna, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Madrid, Brussels, Budapest, Athens and Sofia) to provide insight into inequalities in walkability benefits due to spatial distribution. To this end, we utilize MAPS-Mini, the brief version of Microscale Audit of Pedestrian Streetscapes to record and assess, at the street level, 15 walkability related items based on the Google Street View service. Our total sample consists of about 15.736 street segments/crossings, while for reliability analysis reasons, a second rater was employed to cross assess 10% of street segments per city. Results showed that Vienna and Athens had the highest (50.4%) and lowest (32.1%) overall walkability scores, respectively. Assessments were further combined with the population estimates of the European Urban Atlas 2012 dataset to perform equity analysis by estimating the distribution of average walkability scores among the population living downtown in the examined cities. In doing so, we used the Gini (G.) index and constructed Lorenz curve graphs. Our findings reveal a landscape of high inequality in downtown walkability distribution since all Gini coefficients were higher than 0.43. However, the inequality was greatest in Brussels (G. = 0.60) and lowest in Budapest (G. = 0.43). Additionally, we used spatial statistics tests (i.e. global and local Moran’s I) to identify global and local patterns of walkability and population. The results indicated a highly clustered pattern of walkability across all downtowns and designated several clusters of uneven walkability geographies. Our approach sheds light on the application of active mobility strategies in different European cities, highlighting at the same time the need for further research to provide a clearer assessment of the spatial distribution of inequalities in social benefits and impact when designing sustainable urban neighbourhoods.
active mobility, downtown, city centre, walkability, urban planning, equality
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