Urban mobility of the most vulnerable: 5 minutes to understand

Urban mobility of the most vulnerable: 5 minutes to understand

Urban Mobility of the Most Vulnerable: 5 Minutes to Understand


Ensuring urban mobility for all is a major challenge. Many people who are vulnerable because of their physical condition, mental health, age or strong cultural barriers can not move independently. The sidewalks that we walk every day without difficulty can be a source of anxiety and factor of social withdrawal for the most fragile people.

In the light of different surveys, we will try to understand the behavior and needs of fragile people in their travels. What are the difficulties encountered? What are the measures to be taken to improve their experience in the urban space? This article takes stock of the situation.

Make the city “legible”

According to Kevin Lynch’s book Image of the City (1960), the city is made “legible” thanks to five structuring elements: streets, neighborhoods, landmarks, boundaries and nodes (junction and concentration points). Pedestrians rely on these physical forms to find their bearings. They are meant to offer the user the opportunity to create a mental image of the places he or she walks.

When readability is lacking, apprehension takes the lead. This anxiety can become a real source of stress that paralyzes the most vulnerable people so that they give up moving and lose autonomy.

The perception of urban space varies from one user to another according to his physical and mental abilities, his personal experience and his culture. These personal filters encourage the consideration of the capacities of the most diverse users.

Priority goes therefore to the “legibility” of the city to improve the feeling of safety of all users.

Urban mobility: who are the most fragile people?

Disabled people

“About 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning.” WHO

Disability typologies are grouped under six main categories:

⊗ mobility impairment

⊗ sensory disability

⊗ psychic handicap

⊗ mental disability

⊗ cognitive impairment

⊗ debilitating diseases

Among them, there are people with several disabilities of the same degree as deafblindness and people with a severe disability with multiple expressions resulting in extreme restriction of autonomy.

Old people

“Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years old will nearly double from 12% to 22%.”(WHO)

The elderly are often affected by gait disorders, cognitive disorders and sensory disorders.


Cities around the world are not alike and that’s good! Culture is indeed at the heart of urban development. Some tourists and especially some