Public parks and open recreational facilities are essential elements of healthy modern cities. The importance of the public parks in urban residential areas is uncontested from the health and environment point of view. Although, public parks are integral parts of the urban residential areas in most of the cities in South Africa, they are observed to be highly underutilised. Literature suggests that accessibility, environmental and social factors are some of the challenges for proper utilization of the public parks. However, the challenges of accessibility to the public parks, particularly in residential areas of cities are least explored. Therefore, using the case study of Bloemfontein this investigation identified the most important accessibility factors that deter the utilisation of public parks, and examined their level of influence on the utilisation of public parks in the residential areas of a South African city. This study was conducted by using a survey research methodology and consequent development and application of empirical models. Primary data collected through both household surveys, and physical park utilisation surveys by continuous digital photography and videography were used to explore the influential accessibility variables, and subsequent development of empirical models to examine their influence on the utilisation of public parks. It was revealed that the ratio of road network to pedestrian facilities (paved pathways) network, number of access streets to the parks, size (in area) of parks, and the level of illumination in the parks during evening periods are the major variables, which influence the utilisation of the parks to varied extent. An optimal level of number of access streets to the parks, proportionate pedestrian facilities (paved pathways) facilities on the roads providing access to parks and appreciable illumination will enable significant improvement in the utilisation of parks in the residential areas of South African cities.
Paper presented at the 35th Annual Southern African Transport Conference 4-7 July 2016 "Transport ? a catalyst for socio-economic
growth and development opportunities to improve quality of life", CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa.