Pathways to Autonomy: Supporting Youth Independent Mobility in Westlake, Los Angeles

Research Team: Dana Cuff (lead), Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, and Claire Nelischer

UC Campus(es): UCLA

Problem Statement: In Westlake, Los Angeles, a neighborhood with a gauntlet of challenges along its sidewalks, the 11 to 15-year-olds who travel independently accumulate extensive experience and valuable knowledge traversing the city. In the process, they develop ideas about what they like, what they dislike, and how their pathways can be improved. Yet urban designers, planners, and advocates interested in supporting safe mobility know very little about how youth experience the city, perceive their surroundings, and negotiate their travel. Data about traffic-related pedestrian injuries is not enough to explain adolescent mobility patterns, preferred routes, or modes of travel. Though these patterns involve safety, this study shows that many other factors shape independent mobility for urban youth.

Project Description: In this study, the researchers use the concept of “sidewalk ecologies” to highlight the complex interaction between spatially situated social and material features of sidewalks that influence youth mobility. The researchers use a range of interdisciplinary strategies, emphasizing youth-centered research methods and mapping to capture a rich portrait of the independent travel experiences, perceptions, and ideas of youth, in their own voices. This research was conducted in partnership with Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), a community-based organization in Westlake that provides after-school programming to thousands of neighborhood youths, and yielded important findings.

Status: Completed

Budget: $90,000

Policy Brief(s):