Stress in the city: how does urban planning affect citizens?

Stress in the city: how does urban planning affect citizens?
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The Urban Emotions project by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) assesses the spatial and social structures of cities to determine the relationship between urban planning and feelings of stress in the city.

The international project comprises urban planners, psychologists, sociologists, and geoinformatics experts to scientifically quantify human emotions and responses of stress in the city using smart band sensors. The data gathered from the project will inform urban and spatial planning based on the analysis of how these factors affect levels of human stress.

Monitoring levels of stress in the city

Dr Peter Zeile is the head of the project, which is carried out by the Urban Quarter Planning Group of KIT’s Institute for Urban and Landscape Design. Zeile said: “Under stress conditions, the skin’s conductivity increases, while the body’s temperature decreases. These reactions of the body cannot be influenced. Their measurement, hence, enables objective determination of emotions.”

Zeile added: “We found, for example, that turning left from a lane with vehicles driving straight on means considerable stress for cyclists, and also bumpy roads make them feel upset.”

The project uses smart band sensors to measure the physical stress reactions of people in different urban situations, close to real time. They also used a 360-degree video camera attached to the bicycle or body to record a persons surroundings. The scientists have combined data from the body’s resonance with images and position data, so that they can analyse when and where the person experienced stress in the citizen.

Stress levels and urban planning

The analysis of stress in the city can help influence urban planning for the benefits of citizens and may serve as a route to a more citizen-centred city planning strategy.

Zeile commented on how the project can help citizens with varying needs: “Accessibility, for instance, means something different for the visually impaired and for wheelchair users. Needs that can be measured objectively have more weight in a discussion and facilitate decision-making.”

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