2018 journal article

An exploratory study of perceived safety in a neighborhood park using immersive virtual environments


author keywords: Enclosure; Immersive virtual environments; Perceived safety; Urban park; Vegetation
UN Sustainable Development Goal Categories
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities (Web of Science; OpenAlex)
Source: Web Of Science
Added: October 16, 2018

Spatial configuration and physical characteristics of landscape features can strongly influence perceptions of fear and danger. This study examined how situational characteristics, particularly spatial enclosure shaped by surrounding vegetation, are related to perception of safety in a park setting. Study stimuli involved eight 360° immersive virtual environments (IVE) representing low, medium, and high spatial enclosure situations based on the degree of visual and locomotive permeability shaped by the physical arrangement of vegetation. Forty-eight students experienced the IVEs wearing a head mounted display device and then indicated on a 5-point scale how safe they would feel walking alone in that location during the day. Immediately after rating each IVE, participants indicated the main reasons they would feel either safe or unsafe in that particular location. Analysis results indicated that subjects perceived high enclosure environments as significantly less safe than medium and low enclosure environments. In addition to enclosure formed by vegetation, attributes that contributed to perception of safety were presence of non-threatening people and paths. Results indicated that gender differences in perceived safety were significant for the high and medium enclosed environments only. Study findings would allow urban planners and park managers to better understand how the spatial characteristics of existing or planned urban greenspace are likely to influence perceived safety and consequently use patterns and the attainment of social and psychological benefits provided by urban parks. Such an understanding can help generate evidence-based guidelines for improving safety while preserving desired aesthetic and ecological properties of the landscape.