What is trending?
In the not too distant future the most desirable properties will be the ones that are with in walking distance, walking distance to where you work, walking distance to where you learn, socialise, and pray.
We will see the return of the pedestrian in small steps.
Why is it important?
Our faced paced lives are slowly catching up with us, people are stressed and just simply too busy. Spending hours everyday in traffic or on public transportation takes away time at home, time to rest and recuperate.
‘Walking isn’t a lost art: one must, by some means, get to the garage’
– Evan Esar
People are rediscovering the beauty of the small village, even if these small villages are part of urban areas, or in fact is the urban centre. We are seeing the revitalisation of rundown urban centers. Cities are taking huge initiatives (on local front in July last year, Pretoria’s illegal street vendors were taken off the streets in the inner city, as part of an attempt to make the city centre safer and friendlier) to secure the urban centers and bring back the young and trendy and of course, the cash.
A few positive effects of pedestrian cities, also known as New Urbanism are; that when it is convenient to walk, cycle or use public transportation to get to the basic services, the pedestrian city uses less energy. Also because pedestrian cities are denser, the response time for emergency services are quicker resulting in a safer place to live. Pedestrian cities are simply healthier, encouraging daily exercise and have less carbon gasses due to less traffic and the slower lifestyle reduces stress.
What’s the Butterfly Effect?
This trend, this need to walk again, will have a major impact on the way we design our cities. It will re-establish small businesses, it will bring back the charm of the local in a homogenised-globalised-mocha-chino world. The question for major companies would be, how do we position ourselves as the local supermarket, the small school, the artisan bakery? How do we do little, large?
This way of life is the highest quality of living. It includes, or should include, all the essential services within a 5 to 10 minute walk from your front door. Services such as grocery stores, fresh fruit and veg stores, newsstands, coffee shops, parks, intergrated public transportation (including access to a national network) and other personal services. Entertainment and cultural activities would also add to the quality of life.
The best places to live are (and will be more and more), pedestrian cities, that are car free and have interconnected walkways with small businesses, eateries, schools and offices that all support and thrive on one another. In her book, ‘The death and life of great American cities’, Jane Jacobs calls this “an intricate and close-grained diversity of uses that give each other constant mutual support, both economically and socially”
The Pioneers and Global Hotspots
Venice is considered to be one of the greatest pedestrian cities in the world. It has the largest pedestrian street network which is completely free of cars. Although it is densely populated, it is considered one of the most relaxing places to live.
In the 40 years since Copenhagen’s main street was turned into a pedestrian street the cities planners have continued to take steps to move Copenhagen from a car-friendly city to a people-friendly one. One of the things that Copenhagen is doing is to systematically convert streets into pedestrian streets, which in turn frees up the parking lots which are subsequently turned into public squares. Another is to encourage student living in the urban centre, students are far more likely to bicycle to their classes thus animating the city centre. Their bicycling is also encouraged with dedicated bike lanes, and the City Bike System which allows anyone, for a small deposit, to borrow a bike to use from any of the 110 bike stands around the city.
On the local front, plans have been announced for a bicycle and pedestrian project in Soweto, which will be a pilot project for the rest of Gauteng. In addition the city plans to build an additional 50km of bike friendly paths to ease the congestion.
Some books to read on the subject are, Visualizing Density by Campoli and MacLean and Car Free Cities by J.H. Crawford.
Also see the websites http://www.newurbanism.org/pedestrian.html and http://www.cnu.org/performs_better for more info.
By: Pierre Du Plessis
Pierre is a communicator, a dreamer and a troublemaker. He loves how we are all connected in more astounding ways and more than we ever thought.
He is completely obsessed with life in contemporary culture and he wallows in new ideas and marvels at how they can restore and re – create our world.
Image credit: http://rueziffra.com/pedestrian-accidents