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  Spatial decision support analysis for sustainable mobility policies

   School of Computing, Engineering & the Built Environment

  Assoc Prof Inji Kenawy  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

This PhD project aims to develop a spatial framework to integrate sustainable mobility into current urban transport planning policies. Transport is one of the main accounts of air pollution within cities contributing to a significant percentage of air pollutants. Additionally, according to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, it represents 27% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the key driver of observed climate change. This represents the highest percentage compared to greenhouse gas emissions produced by other sectors including residential, energy, business…etc (DfT, 2021). Sustainable mobility is therefore becoming a major challenge faced by all countries by which transport-related issues are addressed. So, what are our options? Walkability and cyclability are two sustainable modes of transport which have a noticeable impact on both users’ health and the environment. In Edinburgh for example, the key statistics show that the physical activity advantages resulting from walking and cycling help prevent 344 early deaths, which is valued at more than 1 billion British pounds. Furthermore, approximately 23,000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions could be saved if 80% of tar trips of up to three miles were substituted by walking and cycling (City of Edinburgh, 2022). Both modes of transportation are therefore considered by many cities and embedded in their policies. Edinburgh is one the cities that consider walkability as a priority, the first aim in the proposed city plan Strategy 2030 is “Delivering a network of 20-minute walkable neighbourhoods and embedding a ‘place-based’ approach to the creation of high quality, high density, mixed-use, and walkable communities, linked by better active travel and public transport infrastructure, green and blue networks and bringing community services closer to homes.” (City of Edinburgh Council, 2021). This 15-minute city concept has gained significant attention from various other cities to achieve a more sustainable environment. It is simply the ability to provide access to all human needs within 15 minutes by walking or cycling. So how to turn an existing city into a walkable/cyclable one? This involves both the ability to walk/cycle as well as the quality of the pedestrian/cyclist experience (Duany and Steuteville, 2021). Both walkability and cyclability are affected by built environment attributes, such as the streetscape design and accessibility and climatic parameters (Fonseca et al, 2022). Measuring these attributes should involve the users’ perception, which includes structured, subjective, and behavioural indicators (Berzi, Gorrini and Vizzari, 2019). It is therefore crucial to widely engage the diverse public in the decision-making process and to assess the effectiveness of the surrounding built and urban environment on both modes of transportation based on their experience.

This PhD project aims to develop a spatial framework to integrate sustainable mobility into current urban transport planning policies taking into consideration users’ experience. The methods used would include qualitative, quantitative, and spatial analysis (GIS). Case studies will be selected as part of the research journey.

The main research questions of the research are to include:

1. What are the sustainable mobility modes (SMM) in cities?

2. How are SMM linked to the existing planning policies?

3. What are the variables affecting these SMM?

4. What are the users’ perceptions and experiences with SMM?

5. How could SMM be embedded in the current policies for existing cities?

If you’re interested in sustainable mobility, and spatial and behavioural analysis, the supervisory team is looking forward to reading your application.

Keywords: Sustainable Transportation, Sustainable Urban Mobility, Users’ Behaviour, Spatial Analysis, Climate change, Walkability, Cyclability, Participatory approach. 

Academic qualifications

A first-class honours degree, or a distinction at master level, or equivalent achievements in Architecture, Built Environment, Urban Development.

English language requirement

If your first language is not English, comply with the University requirements for research degree programmes in terms of English language.

Application process

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the supervisor, Dr. Inji Kenawy () to discuss the content of the project and the fit with their qualifications and skills before preparing an application. 

The application must include: 

Research project outline of 2 pages (list of references excluded). The outline may provide details about

  • Background and motivation, explaining the importance of the project, should be supported also by relevant literature. You can also discuss the applications you expect for the project results.
  • Research questions or
  • Methodology: types of data to be used, approach to data collection, and data analysis methods.
  • List of references

The outline must be created solely by the applicant. Supervisors can only offer general discussions about the project idea without providing any additional support.

  • Statement no longer than 1 page describing your motivations and fit with the project.
  • Recent and complete curriculum vitae. The curriculum must include a declaration regarding the English language qualifications of the candidate.
  • Supporting documents will have to be submitted by successful candidates.
  • Two academic references (but if you have been out of education for more than three years, you may submit one academic and one professional reference), on the form can be downloaded here.

Applications can be submitted here.

Download a copy of the project details here.

Architecture, Building & Planning (3)


[1] DfT: Department of Transport, 2021, Official Statistics: Transport and environment statistics: Autumn 2021,, accessed 14 November 2022.
[2] City of Edinburgh, 2022,
[3] City of Edinburgh Council, 2021, City Plan 2030 proposed plan,
[4] Duany, A. and Steuteville, R., 2021, Defining the 15-minute city, Public Square CNU,
[5] Fonseca, F., Ribeiro, P.J., Conticelli, E., Jabbari, M., Papageorgiou, G., Tondelli, S. (2022) Built environment attributes and their influence on walkability, International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, 16 (7).
[6] Berzi, C., Gorrini, A., Vizzari, G. (2019). Mining the Social Media Data for a Bottom-Up Evaluation of Walkability. In: Hamdar, S. (eds) Traffic and Granular Flow '17. TGF 2017. Springer, Cham.