Smart city for pedestrians: Making cities people-friendly again

Image credit

Smart city for pedestrians: Making cities people-friendly again

Thrive from future trends

Subscribe today to equip your team with the leading trend and foresight platform used by multidisciplinary, future-focused teams working across departments in Strategy, Innovation, Product Development, Investor Research, and Consumer Insights. Convert industry trends into practical insights for your business.

Starting at $15/month

Smart city for pedestrians: Making cities people-friendly again

Subheading text
Smart cities are pushing pedestrian safety higher up the priority list through technology and urban policies.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • May 5, 2023

    Cities are composed of people, but unfortunately, the safety of pedestrians has often been neglected in past urban planning paradigms. The concept of smart cities is aimed at changing past standards by convincing municipal governments to make pedestrian safety a priority once again. By prioritizing the needs and safety of citizens, cities can become more livable and sustainable places to live.

    Smart city for pedestrians context

    The modern world is rapidly becoming more urbanized, with United Nations projections suggesting that by 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. With this growth comes new challenges, one of which is making cities more livable, efficient, and sustainable. One solution to this challenge is the concept of smart cities, which use technology and data to improve the quality of life for residents, particularly mobility.

    The issue of pedestrian safety has become a global crisis in cities across the world. In 2017, there were 6,000 pedestrian deaths in the US and over 2,400 child pedestrian deaths in South Africa. These accidents are primarily due to poor road designs that encourage speeding, leading to dangerous pedestrian conditions. Simple solutions can be implemented to improve safety, such as increased surveillance through CCTV cameras, slower speed limits in designated zones, and strategically placed traffic lights and bollards.

    However, more comprehensive changes require a shift towards smart cities, prioritizing real-time communication and collaboration between governments and pedestrians. With the help of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities are rolling out interconnected systems that can anticipate potential collisions and gather data on pedestrian feedback and preferences. By utilizing technology and putting the needs of citizens first, smart cities are working to create safer, more livable urban environments.

    Disruptive impact

    US-based smart city tech company Applied Information launched its IoT-enabled pedestrian crossing safety system (PCSS), which can communicate real-time information to drivers and pedestrians through the TraveSafety smartphone app. Traffic light systems are configurable, radar-based, and even solar-powered. A similar sensor system is being explored in the UK, where traffic lights can change color as soon as pedestrians step on the crosswalk, even if traffic has not completely stopped yet.

    The rise of autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles can lead to safer road conditions as interconnected devices and dashboards communicate faster and more accurately than human drivers. Meanwhile, in Europe, a project called Smart Pedestrian Net is piloting an app that guides pedestrians on the safest routes (not just the fastest) to their destination. Pedestrians can also leave feedback on the app, such as dark roads, potholes, and accident hazards they encounter during their walks.

    Pedestrian analytics can collect footfall patterns and information on areas of high congestion. This data can then inform urban planning decisions, such as the placement of public spaces, pedestrian crossings, and traffic management systems. Public information displays can provide real-time information to pedestrians about the availability of public transportation, road conditions, and other important information. For example, digital signage can display real-time bus and train schedules, helping reduce waiting times and making public transportation more convenient.

    Implications for smart cities for pedestrians

    Wider implications for smart cities for pedestrians may include:

    • The increasing popularity of pedestrian safety apps that can give accurate directions and updated information on traffic and road conditions to city planners and administrators.
    • Urban planners hiring more smart city tech firms to deploy IoT traffic systems that are sustainable and streamlined but flexible.
    • The widescale adoption of new neighborhood and city block building codes that ensure current and future city street infrastructure is built with features that promote pedestrian safety and comfort. 
    • Real estate developers ensuring the availability of IoT traffic systems in their target neighborhoods to offer premium prices for their properties.
    • Increased surveillance and monitoring of public spaces, leading to privacy concerns and erosion of personal freedom.
    • The deployment of smart city technologies potentially resulting in increased inequality and gentrification of urban areas.
    • The cost of implementing smart city technologies potentially diverting resources away from other pressing urban needs, such as affordable housing and infrastructure development.
    • The dependence on technology and data in smart cities increasing the vulnerability of urban systems to cyberattacks and data breaches, posing a threat to public safety.

    Questions to consider

    • How is your city prioritizing pedestrian safety?
    • How do you think smart cities can encourage more people to walk?

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: