Nurturing Safe Routes: Cognitive Mapping exercise in Pune Schools

As a part of our Schools for a cycle friendly Pune initiative, we undertook a Cognitive Mapping Exercise with students. The term "cognitive mapping" may sound complex, but at its core, it involves the mental processes of acquiring, representing, storing, and using information about the spatial properties of our physical surroundings. In simpler terms, it's about understanding how individuals perceive and navigate their environment.

Purpose of the Exercise

The driving force behind this exercise was to conduct a comprehensive mapping study on the effects of traffic on children's cognitive development of spatial knowledge. As our cities become more congested and urbanized, it is crucial to understand how these conditions impact the cognitive abilities of the younger generation. By examining the mental maps that students create, we aimed to gain insights into their perception of the city, its structures, and their awareness of their surroundings.


The exercise was designed to be simple yet effective. To ensure unbiased results, students were provided with no prompts or visual cues about the various types of maps. Instead, they were asked to sketch or draw the route from their residence to school or vice versa. This raw visualization allowed us to tap into their unfiltered perceptions and observations about the environment they traverse daily.

Students were encouraged to note down details such as prominent buildings, bus stations, and any other significant landmarks along their route. Furthermore, they were asked to specify their mode of transportation, shedding light on their daily commute experiences. To delve deeper into their experiences, students were prompted to mark areas where they felt unsafe navigating traffic or places where they had personally encountered hostility from oncoming automobiles.

Key Components of the Exercise

  1. Route Drawing: Students were tasked with illustrating the routes they take daily, emphasizing specific landmarks and crucial points of interest.
  2. Observations: Alongside mapping their routes, students were encouraged to note down observations about their surroundings, including buildings, green spaces, and public infrastructure.
  3. Mode of Transportation: Students were required to mention their mode of transportation, whether it be walking, cycling, or using public transportation. This information added depth to the study by considering how different modes of transport influence their spatial awareness.
  4. Safety Concerns: To gain insights into the challenges students face, they were asked to mark or draw places they perceived as unsafe to navigate, areas with heavy traffic, or places where they had personally experienced hostility from oncoming automobiles.
  5. Results and Insights: The analysis of the collected data provided valuable insights into the students' spatial cognition and awareness levels. Patterns emerged regarding commonly perceived safety concerns, traffic congestion points, and areas where students felt particularly vulnerable.

The Cognitive Mapping Exercise proved to be an insightful and practical tool for understanding the challenges students face in their daily commute. The information gathered will be instrumental in informing future initiatives aimed at creating safer and more cycle-friendly routes in Pune. By actively involving students in the planning process, we are taking a step towards building a city that is not only conducive to academic growth but also prioritizes the safety and well-being of its younger residents.