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Understanding and supporting personal security during walking journeys

School of Engineering

About the Project

As well as being a travel mode in its own right, walking plays a critical function as a stage/multiple stages in almost any journey whether undertaken by public or private transport. Walking has received limited attention in transport research by comparison with other modes (Sundquist et al, 2011). As a result, personal security during walking journeys is poorly understood (Painter, 1996; Phillips et al, 2013). The overall security of any journey requires consideration to be given to all journey stages and walking can be the stage in which the traveller is most vulnerable. Walking can also involve transition between built environments of variable quality and security. Improving the perceived security of walking environments can have considerable benefits including:

• Encouraging active travel with associated health and social benefits.
• Encouraging travel by public transport with associated environmental and economic (congestion reduction) benefits.
• Encouraging social inclusion (given minimal associated costs and potential for collaborative journey planning via social media) and enhancing community (by improving the quality of local environments).
This study will focus on understanding personal security issues associated with walking and seeking to identify opportunities to address these issues. It would benefit from the using a range of research methods including:
• Journey/travel environment auditing
• Qualitative approaches such as ethnography, analysis of social media information and participant interviews
• Quantitative approaches focussing on participant observation, mobile data collection and questionnaires
• Focus groups with key stakeholders and the general public

The study would seek to utilise opportunities provided by mobile technologies to monitor and gather information on walking behaviour. There is potential to use social media as a platform for gathering data and engaging study participants. The study would look to capitalise on the strong links that the Centre for Transport Research has with transport operators and transport authorities to determine appropriate research sites.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Engineering, Geography or a cognate discipline.

Knowledge of:
Transport studies
Transport engineering
Transport geography
Planning and built environment
Experience in use of Qualitative and quantitative research methods desirable.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering
• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)
• Detailed CV

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr M Beecroft (), with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ()

It is possible to undertake this project entirely by distance learning. Interested parties should discuss this with Dr Beecroft.

Funding Notes

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Engineering. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for Tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting View Website. THERE IS NO FUNDING ATTACHED TO THIS PROJECT


Painter, K. (1996). The influence of street lighting improvements on crime, fear and pedestrian street use, after dark. Landscape and Urban Planning,
35, 2–3,193–201.

Phillips, J, Walford, N, Hockey, A, Foreman, N and Lewis, M. (2013). Older people and outdoor environments: Pedestrian anxieties and barriers in the use of familiar and unfamiliar spaces. Geoforum, 47, 113–124.

Sundquist,K, Eriksson, U, Kawakami,N, Skog, L, Ohlsson, H and Arvidsson, D. (2011) Neighborhood walkability, physical activity, and walking behavior: The Swedish Neighborhood and Physical Activity (SNAP) study. Social Science & Medicine, 72, 8, 1266–1273.

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