Features of urban spaces and commuting bicyclists' aesthetic experience

Harpa Stefánsdóttir


The present study provides new insight into how features of urban
space stimulate cyclists aesthetic experience when commuting, which
features are experienced as aesthetically pleasant and which have the
opposite effect. In addition, the study explores what kind of space types
contains the most pleasant features and the most unpleasant. The study
introduces a special method called bike-through evaluation. It involves
engaging groups of cyclists to explore how different types of urban
spaces are experienced from an aesthetic point of view with commuting
in mind. The experiments were conducted with invited participants who
cycled pre-planned routes in Reykjavík and Trondheim, which included
up to eight different urban space types. The participants commented on
their experience both in writing and through discussions. The information
so obtained was then interpreted on the basis of theories within the
field of environmental aesthetics. The results clearly demonstrate that
the most important features in the urban space regarded as pleasing
and found to stimulate aesthetic experience include vegetation, view to
nature, historical buildings and places, clearly defined streetscapes, and
seeing other people at some distance. In comparison, features that have
the opposite effect are auto-dominated places and congested streets
with car traffic. In essence, an acceptable instrumental quality of a bicycle
route favours experiencing aesthetic qualities.

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