Walkable City: Exploring Pedestrian Spaces in Urban India

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A walkable city focuses on “walkability,” which refers to the extent to which an area or environment is conducive and inviting for walking as a mode of transportation and recreation. A walkable city is a design that will accommodate and encourage pedestrian activity, making walking a practical, convenient, and desirable means of getting around. It also encompasses various factors that contribute to the ease, safety, and enjoyment of walking within a specific location, typically a neighbourhood, city, or urban area. Walkability is associated with various benefits, including improved physical and mental health, reduced traffic congestion, lower environmental impact, and the creation of vibrant, socially connected communities. Urban planners and policymakers often aim to enhance walkability to create sustainable, liveable, and walkable cities.

Mall Road in Manali (Image Credits: Adobe Stock)

What makes Walkable Cities?

Creating a walkable city involves a combination of urban planning, infrastructure development, and community engagement. Here are six key elements that contribute to their creation:

1. Pedestrian-Friendly Infrastructure

Graphical representation of a pedestrian friendly street (Image Credits: archdaily.com)

Well-designed sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian signals are essential for a walkable city. Wide, well-lit, and well-maintained sidewalks should provide a safe and comfortable space for pedestrians. The presence of curb ramps, pedestrian islands, and well-marked crosswalks enhances accessibility.

2. Mixed Land Use and Compact Design

Walkable City
Image Credits: reddit.com

A mix of residential, commercial, and recreational spaces within close proximity encourages people to walk for daily activities. Compact urban planning reduces sprawl, minimizing the distances between destinations. This design approach promotes a sense of community and makes walking a practical and convenient option.

3. Complete Streets

Complete Street (Image Credits: designforwalkability.com)

Streets designed with all users in mind, including pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit users, create a balanced transportation network. Complete streets feature dedicated bike lanes, public transportation stops, and crosswalks. These designs prioritize safety and accessibility for everyone.

4. Access to Amenities

Walkable City
Kids walking to school (Image Credits: commons.wikimedia.org)

Walkable cities have essential amenities, such as grocery stores, schools, healthcare facilities, and parks, located within walking distance of residential areas. This reduces the reliance on cars for routine tasks and encourages people to choose walking as a mode of transport.

5. Green Spaces and Public Plazas

Image Credits: designforwalkability.com

Parks, public squares, and green spaces contribute to the overall appeal of a city for pedestrians. These areas provide opportunities for relaxation, social interaction, and recreational walking. The presence of trees and landscaping enhances the aesthetics and comfort of walking environments.

6. Planned Public Transportation

Walkable City
Image Credits: uitp.org

A well-integrated public transportation system complements walkability. Bus stops, train stations, and other transit options should be strategically located to facilitate easy transfers. This allows residents to combine walking with public transit for longer journeys.

Case Study of Walkable Cities

Chandigarh, India

Street view of Sector-17, Chandigarh (Image Credits: housing.com)

Chandigarh, a city meticulously designed by the legendary architect Le Corbusier, stands as a testament to thoughtful urban planning. Among its exemplary sectors, Sector 17 emerges as a showcase of walkability principles seamlessly integrated into its design.

1. Pedestrian-Friendly

Walkable City
New Fountain at Sector-17 (Image Credits: hindustantimes.com)

Sector 17, Chandigarh’s commercial heartbeat, epitomizes pedestrian-friendly urban planning. The expansive, tree-lined sidewalks and designated pedestrian zones create an alluring environment, inviting residents and visitors alike to explore through walking.

2. Grid-Like Layout

New Plan of Sector -17 by BDP (Image Credits: bdp.com)

The sector’s grid-like street layout, aligned with Chandigarh’s overall design philosophy, ensures effortless navigation for pedestrians. This well-planned infrastructure encourages a sense of exploration, allowing individuals to traverse the sector comfortably.

3. Central Plaza for Social Interaction

At the heart of Sector 17 lies the Plaza, a central open space surrounded by shops and cafes. This area serves as a focal point for leisurely strolls and social interactions, contributing to the vibrant character of the sector.

4. Traffic Management Prioritizing Safety

To bolster pedestrian safety, Sector 17 implements strategic traffic management measures. During specific hours, vehicular access is restricted, creating a safer space for pedestrians to navigate the sector with ease.

5. Green Spaces

Walkable City
3D view of the market (Image Credits: hindustantimes.com)

The sector’s charm extends beyond functionality. Green spaces, public art installations, and well-maintained pathways enhance the overall aesthetics, providing a visually pleasing backdrop for those enjoying a pleasant walking experience.

6. Revitalization Initiative

In a forward-looking move, the UT Administration in Chandigarh is set to transform Sector 17 Plaza into a walkers’ paradise. The comprehensive plan involves prohibiting vehicles within the plaza and offering visitors convenient alternatives such as golf carts and cycles for seamless travel. The rejuvenation plan includes the introduction of cycle tracks and pedestrian paths, fostering enhanced connectivity between Sector 17 and the Capitol Complex. Further, an underpass linking Sector 17 and Rose Garden is nearing completion, promising further ease of movement and accessibility.

Chandigarh’s Sector 17 and other residential sectors as well not only exemplify current walkability standards but also foster a healthy commitment to create a pedestrian-centric environment aligning with the city’s longstanding reputation for prioritising the well-being and quality of life for its residents and visitors.

Pune, India

Street view of the FC Road (Image Credits: topuniversities.com)

Pune, renowned for its cultural heritage and historical significance, has embraced a commendable walkability ethos, showcasing its commitment to creating pedestrian-friendly urban spaces. Fergusson College Road, affectionately known as FC Road, stands as a bustling thoroughfare that exemplifies Pune’s dedication to pedestrian-friendly environments. This lively street has become a hub of activity, inviting both residents and visitors to explore its diverse offerings on foot.

1. Mixed Land Use

Lined with a diverse array of shops, cafes, and cultural venues, FC Road creates a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere. The mix of establishments along the street contributes to a lively street life that appeals to pedestrians seeking a range of experiences.

2. Comfortable Sidewalks

FC Road boasts wide and well-maintained sidewalks, providing a comfortable space for pedestrians to leisurely meander through the bustling street. This thoughtful design enhances the overall walking experience, allowing people to explore the surroundings at their own pace.

3. Dedicated Crosswalks for Safety

The pedestrian-friendly design of FC Road is further enhanced by dedicated crosswalks, ensuring a safe environment for those on foot. These well-marked crossings prioritize pedestrian safety and contribute to the overall walkability of the street.

4. Proximity to Important Spaces

FC Road’s strategic location adds to its appeal. The street is in close proximity to iconic institutions like Fergusson College, adding an educational and cultural dimension to the area. Additionally, its accessibility to parks and recreational spaces enhances the overall walkability experience.

Pune’s strategic efforts to nurture pedestrian-friendly streets like FC Road contribute significantly to the city’s overall charm. The commitment to creating walkable urban spaces reflects Pune’s dedication to fostering a culture of walking and encouraging community engagement in public areas.

Walkable City
Fergusson College (Image Credits: punemirror.com)

Why are cities in India less walkable?

Image Credits: thehinducentre.com

1. Lack well-maintained sidewalks

Many Indian cities lack well-maintained sidewalks or, in some cases, have no sidewalks at all. Existing sidewalks may be encroached upon by street vendors, parked vehicles, or damaged infrastructure. In crowded marketplaces or busy commercial areas, pedestrians often share narrow or non-existent sidewalks with vehicular traffic, leading to unsafe conditions.

2. High levels of vehicular traffic and congestion

Walking through busy streets are challenging and pose safety concerns for pedestrians due to high levels of vehicular traffic and congestion. Cities like Mumbai and Delhi experience severe traffic jams, with limited traffic management measures in place.

3. Unplanned urban expansion

The distance between residential, commercial, and recreational areas are increasing due to unplanned urban expansion, making walking impractical for routine tasks. Take for example the rapid growth of suburbs in cities like Bengaluru that results in extended commutes, discouraging people from walking for daily activities.

4. Lack sufficient parks and green spaces

Many Indian cities lack sufficient parks and green spaces, limiting opportunities for recreational walking and relaxation. Like in densely populated areas, the absence of public parks forces residents to rely on streets for walking, often in crowded and polluted environments.

5. Distant from commercial districts

Residential areas may be distant from commercial districts, requiring residents to rely on cars or public transport, limiting the feasibility of walking.

6. Limited integration between different modes of public transportation

There is limited integration between different modes of public transportation, making it challenging for residents to combine walking with public transit for longer distances. For instance, poor connectivity between bus stops, train stations, and metro systems.

7. Safety concerns

Poor street lighting, high crime rates, and other safety concerns may deter people from walking, especially during evenings and nights.

8. Rapid construction

Fast-paced urbanization without sufficient focus on sustainable and pedestrian-friendly urban planning. The rapid construction of high-rise concrete buildings without corresponding infrastructure developments often results in car-centric urban landscapes, minimizing walkable spaces.

9. Lack dedicated cycling infrastructure

Unlike some European cities, Indian cities often lack dedicated cycling infrastructure, making it less feasible for residents to opt for cycling as a mode of transport.

Conclusion

Walkable city, from well-designed pedestrian infrastructure to green spaces, mixed land use, and seamless public transportation integration, contribute not only to practical urban planning but also to the creation of vibrant, healthier, and more sustainable communities. The case studies of Chandigarh and Pune illuminate the tangible benefits of prioritising walkability, offering inspiration for other cities as well. By fostering a sense of community, emphasising sustainability, and enhancing overall quality of life, the concept of a walkable city represents a holistic approach that aligns with the evolving needs and aspirations of urban dwellers.

Content Writing And Research By: Ar. Ishita Jindal

The post Walkable City: Exploring Pedestrian Spaces in Urban India appeared first on The Architects Diary.



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