Chinese walking urbanism: notions, life stages and vending - walking space in smaller Chinese cities
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date02/07/2021
While 54.5% of the world’s population lives in cities, urban sprawl has led to typically less walkable car-dominated urban environments. A decrease in physical activity – especially walking – is resulting in more than 5 million deaths annually worldwide through its impacts on non-communicable diseases. The notion of walkability has become an increasingly significant concept for both interdisciplinary research and practice. Chinese cities, in which bicycles and pedestrians once prevailed, have become dominated by cars in recent decades, giving rise to a reduction in the amount of both walking and walkable space. Walking in Chinese cities may be closely related to a particular local neighbourhood where numerous street vendors serve many pedestrians. Smaller cities, where most Chinese live, have attracted less research attention than larger ones, and typically lag behind in urban planning developments. Thus, understanding how street life takes place and why and to what extent people walk in such cities is an important knowledge gap. In order to address this gap, two aspects (i.e. life stages and vending-walking space) are examined in this thesis, with the following research questions: Life stages: What are the associations between neighbourhood environment and walking duration? Do the associations vary across different life stages? And, if so, why? How do individuals in different life stages experience daily life activities differently within the same neighbourhood environment? Vending-walking space: How can everyday street activities be differentiated according to the paired types of street vendor and customer, specific population characteristics and specific walking behaviours? How do spatio-temporal patterns vary at different times, and in different streets and cities? A mixed-methods approach was developed, applying a NEWS-A questionnaire together with interviews and site observations, which partly represented a new methodology using a team-based technique for observing, recording, categorising and visually representing street vendors’ and pedestrians’ use of urban space. The methods incorporated both physical and social elements to provide a fine-grained picture of ordinary people’s everyday practices on six different streets in the two smaller cities of Yuncheng and Suihua. The findings, grounded in reality, “real life” and “actual place”, indicate that everyday walking in smaller Chinese cities produces specific environment–behaviour interactions and socio-spatial relations, leading to a holistic understanding of these phenomena according to changes in time, space, climate, society, culture, economy, age, gender and demand/supply, which differ considerably from everyday life in western cities. The findings show that everyday activities of walking and vending in urban streets constitute an overlooked socio-cultural phenomenon, with a set of complex associations for its own spatial production, that has become integral to the everyday practices of Chinese street life. The work has implications for the planning, design and management of streets in Chinese cities, in order to avoid devoting further space to cars and reducing the life on streets which is important for society and its health and people’s well-being.