Conceptualizing multidimensional barriers: a framework for assessing constraints in realizing recreational benefits of urban green spaces
Although potential urban green space accessibility is being discussed widely, specific barriers that affect accessibility are often under-estimated. They do not equate to limited or uneven accessibility nor are they exclusively related to physical settings. Rather, the range of barriers and their complex interactions, including people’s perceptions, personal conditions, and institutional frameworks, make this topic less clear cut and difficult to put into practice for planning purposes. Given the importance of barriers when people make decisions, we present a conceptual framework to capture the cumulative and interactive effects of different barriers on realizing recreational benefits of urban green spaces. The framework classifies physical, personal, and institutional barriers and highlights their interactions based on three case studies: Stockholm, Leipzig, and Lodz. We argue that constraints to the accessibility of urban green spaces are not so much the interactions between various physical, personal, and institutional barriers, but more the significance that beneficiaries assign to them as perceived barrier effects. Studying barriers seeks to improve the knowledge about the non-use of urban green spaces and to enable us to draw conclusions about the actual accessibility of recreational benefits. Deduced from the conceptual framework, three pathways are contrasted for improving accessibility to the recreational benefits of urban green spaces: the environment, knowledge, and engagement. We argue that these pathways should not be a diffuse objective, but a sensitive and scale-dependent re-balance of individual, physical, and institutional factors for considering justice in environmental and green space planning and management. Our systematic conceptualization and classification of multidimensional barriers enables a more comprehensive understanding of individuals’ decisions in terms of accessing recreational benefits.