Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Integrated Science and Technology

Advisor(s)

Dr. Henry Way, Ph.D.

Dr. Robert Alexander, Ph.D.

Dr. Mace Bentley, Ph.D.

Abstract

This project identifies and spatially analyzes environmental factors that influence the perception of safety in populations of women within Richmond’s LGBT community. The project was conceived due to increasing calls for awareness about street harassment. Its purpose is to examine what physical factors, at the street level, increase or decrease feelings of safety or discomfort for women within this community.

In the first part of the project, survey data was collected from volunteer participants, members of either Diversity Richmond, downtown Richmond’s local LGBT resource center, or Madison Equality, the LGBT student organization at James Madison University. Using blank paper maps provided, participants highlighted areas of the city that they felt as “safe” with green, “less safe” with yellow, “neutral” with blue, or “unknown” with orange.

The second part of the project aggregated the map data and determined areas of agreement using GIS technology, identifying points of overlap in both safe and less safe areas. These points of overlap were seen mainly at intersections.

The third and final phase of the project evaluated the overlapping intersections. To do this, photos were taken in the field and researchers walked the area. Using a 16-factor metric, researchers tallied environmental factors influencing perceptions of safety and less safety in the area. This metric, developed from previous studies conducted on safe and unsafe urban areas, provides eight “safe” and eight “unsafe” qualities to be assessed per location. Safety factors included line of sight, lighting, vegetation alongside the walkway, and the width of the sidewalk. Factors contributing to the perception of less safety included the presence of graffiti, badly-maintained sidewalks, and few people in an area.

By applying the 16-factor metric to the seven street intersections, the two sites considered safe were seen to have high instances of “safe” factors, with two “unsafe” factors each as well. Two of the five remaining intersections considered unsafe by participants met five and four “safe” criteria, as well as five and four “unsafe” criteria. This suggests further refinement of the safe/unsafe metric for future work.

Further research would incorporate applying the results found in this study to other city models, or expanding the survey instrument to incorporate demographic or age data, to possibly account for the consensus on areas considered safe, but less consistent consensus on unsafe.

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