A dissertation defense by Yingying Lu, a Harvard Graduate School of Design doctoral candidate and incoming researcher of the Harvard-China Project.
Abstract: Walking brings wide-ranging health benefits to individuals (Hanson & Jones, 2015) and increases social interaction as well (Talen & Koschinsky, 2013). Walking, as a sustainable transportation mode, can contribute to the urban environment by saving transportation energy consumption and reducing vehicle emissions. Due to its potential significance, walking has been paid increasing attention in urban planning and public health research fields in the past two decades. However, the impact of culture on walking needs further research. This dissertation poses two questions: 1) What are the characters of the culture about walking in China? and 2) How does culture influence walking behavior? For this dissertation, culture is defined as the shared values in a social group. This dissertation uses a mixed-method research strategy to obtain a multi-perspective understanding and allow triangulation between results. The data were collected through documentation, observation, and convenient sample interviews and questionnaires. An existing random sample data set was used for a background study. Data analysis involves content analysis, descriptive analysis, and statistical methods. This dissertation finds that Chinese culture advocates walking in both ancient and modern time. And this culture of walking encourages contemporary urban residents to walk more by transmitting positive values about walking, taking Beijing as an example. Strategies such as publicity and education can be used to further strengthen this culture and thus encourage more walking in the cities.