Considering the pedestrian

Creating walkable areas and linking them to transport is fundamental to good sustainable urban developments, stressed Peter Calthorpe, principal of Calthorpe Associates, in a keynote speech at last week's sustainable development conference in Abu Dhabi.

COMMENT, Design

Creating walkable areas and linking them to transport is fundamental to good sustainable urban developments, stressed Peter Calthorpe, principal of Calthorpe Associates, in a keynote speech at last week's sustainable development conference in Abu Dhabi.

"Designing a good community is designing a walkable place and then linking it to transit. Isolated pockets of walkability are good but they are not as systemic a solution as a combination," he told delegates.

It is the walking scale that knits communities together and improves the environment by getting people out of the car, he added.

"Walking is a key element of successful urban development. Not only is it healthier, but it also creates a healthy social environment, encouraging people to interact with each other. When developing a new urban location, walking and cycling-friendly streets should be created," he said.

As a non-driver, I find no end to the difficulties in trying to get around without a car in Dubai so it is wonderful to see that a pedestrian-centric approach is gradually being adopted in the UAE.

Most of the large developers are now talking about their plans for reducing reliance on cars - by putting them into underground parking or, in the case of Abu Dhabi's Masdar City, for example, keeping them at the outskirts of the city - and creating spaces that are walkable.

But whilst this is clearly a move in the right direction, more needs to be done to address the needs of the pedestrian in the public space too.

The construction of Dubai's new metro and expansion plans for the bus and marine network will make it easier to get around, but it still needs to become simpler to walk from A to B.

Cities such as London and Paris show that it is perfectly possible to have pedestrian friendly cities with a million plus residents. If Dubai wants to position itself as a world-class city, it needs to do more to make walking in the public space a choice rather than a chore.

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