This research examines impacts of shade on city sidewalk users’ behavior. Our goal was to compile and analyze a large body of empirical evidence, demonstrating the extent to which shade influences people’s (i.e. pedestrians’ and cyclists’) behavior during summer daytime conditions. While it’s commonly assumed that outdoor heat stress reduces presence in urban spaces, monitoring may reveal differences between expected and actual effects.
Photographic and microclimatic data were simultaneously collected at a series of 36 monitoring locations between 10:00-17:00, over the course of 9 days in central Tel Aviv, in the summer of 2020. Approximately 40,000 photographs were used to manually count pedestrians and cyclists to compare the number of people traveling in shaded vs unshaded spaces, and also examine whether specific behaviors indicate that people selected shade.
We identified 5,323 people, 60% of whom travelled in the shade. At locations where the size and functionality of shaded and unshaded spaces were generally equal, 67% of sidewalk users and 71% of pedestrians travelled in shade. When pedestrians were exposed to higher levels of radiation, due to the angle of solar incidence and intensity of solar radiation, the relative tendency for traveling in shade appeared to increase systematically, at sites with over 100 pedestrians.
Ultimately, it appears that under thermally stressful circumstances people’s behavior is influenced by the presence of shade. This study’s extensive sample size increases our confidence in suggesting that, in hot climates, people are more likely to use major sidewalks and public open spaces if they are well-shaded.