Should All City Centers be pedestrianised?
Modern cities are faced with a major challenge in balancing between the mobility of pedestrians and the enormous economic growth in virtually all cities. Policymakers in all major cities of the world want to ensure that there is a provision of quality life to all the people using cities on a daily basis. There are complex networks of streets, roads, parks and networks set for pedestrians in cities. Consequently, it becomes extremely challenging for pedestrians to easily explore cities or find their destinations with ease (Benfield, 2010). With the ever increasing complexity of cities, it is very likely that people will develop a tendency towards avoiding cities. Pedestrianisation is an important undertaking as it facilitates the ease in the movement of pedestrians within the city centers. Various cities that have developed proper pedestrian streets have made it easy for pedestrians to navigate through the city centre and spend quality time in the city.
Development of pedestrian walks in cities has become a priority in both developed and developing nations. The developing nations are particularly facing serious challenges in the city centers owing to the massive increases in the vehicular movements. The massive explosion of vehicles in the city centers of developing nations has seen a decline in the space allocated for pedestrians. The past century has been characterized with immense revolution in the urbanization (Bogdan-Nicolae, 2013). Consequently, there has been an increase in the number of pedestrians owing to the massive populations accommodated by many city centers. There are various negative implications associated with overpopulation in cities such as pollution, heavy traffic, noise pollution and a general unfavorable environment for populace. In view of the ever increasing challenges in city centers in relation to pedestrian walks, it is prudent that city planners allocate ample space for pedestrian streets.
The importance of pedestrianization in city centers
Pedestrianization is an integral part of the modern city centers. Pedestrian walks and streets in city centers are considered crucial for the easy and quick movements of pedestrians within the city center. Pedestrianization is important in the sense that it facilitates improvements in the mobility and safety of pedestrians (Lynch, 1960). Statistics indicate that pedestrian deaths are on the increase owing to the many accidents in city centers and other major roads. Pedestrianization is therefore a very important safety precaution in that it helps protect the lives of pedestrians. Pedestrianization is also important in that it helps in the reduction of pollution and noise. This is achieved mainly through restrictions of non-essential vehicles from accessing the city center. Pedestrianization is important for various reasons classified under three categories. The three major categories include: effects on the economy, social effects and environmental effects.
Pedestrianization is has a vital role in environmental sustenance. By developing pedestrian streets and walks, it is possible to reduce various types of environmental pollution such as noise (Gehl, 2005). This is mainly brought about by the fact that the number of cars entering into the city center is massively reduced. Pedestrianization brings about a significant reduction in the need for motor vehicles and cars for human transport into the city center. The modern city centers are facing severe sound and air pollution to the extent that they are increasingly becoming very unpleasant for the human habitation. Pedestrianization is important in reducing pollution in the sense that it promotes walking within the city center as opposed the use of any other means of transport. Fuel saving is also made when pedestrians walk within the city center instead of using motor vehicles. There has been an increase in the use of public transportation such as buses and trains (Tumlin, 2012). Implementation of pedestrianization policies has the effect of increasing spaces maintained purely for pedestrians as well as space for additional trees to be planted.
Landscaping and beautification of city centers is an important undertaking towards improving the environment. Pedestrianization is a very important component of landscaping and beautification as it facilitates the planting of numerous additional trees. Street landscaping and furniture are some of the essential components of city center beautification that comes as a result of pedestrianization of city centers (Benfield, 2010). The environment within the city center is therefore greatly improved with adequate trees and beautiful landscapes and street furniture. The encroachment of the space meant for pedestrians has continuously been consumed by various structures erected within the city center such as kiosks, pergolas, arcades, short walls as well as benches. These structures have led to the reduction in the space meant pedestrians. Furthermore, the modern way of life has encouraged laziness to a great extent in the sense that the modern person prefers driving to his destination as opposed to walking (Nasim, 2008). This has eventually led to the widespread usage of personal vehicles even within city centers leading to massive pollution and unfavorable environment for the people residing in the cities.
Economic factors also require adequate consideration in relation to the consideration of pedestrianization of city centers. Pedestrianization has numerous impacts on the economic aspects on city centers (Cullen, 1961). There is no doubt that many large cities face massive costs annually while trying to repair damaged roads within the city. The heavy traffic flowing within these big cities often causes extensive damage on the urban roads making the government to spend huge amounts of money in repair costs. Additionally, the private sector incurs massive costs while trying to participate in the repair process to make the roads within the city good for use. Furthermore, costs are incurred in such expenses as pollution and medical expenses. These costs are significantly cut down with pedestrianization (Tan, 2006). Therefore, pedestrianization allows the city center roads to be free from extensive damage by many motor vehicles as it encourages people to walk within the city center as opposed to driving.
According to physicians, air pollution has many dangers on the health of human beings. Indeed, there are extensive chronic diseases that have consumed millions to treat. It is against this background that many physicians have set out to voice their concerns about the effects of pollution especially in large cities (Gehl, 2005). Air pollution has been associated with various diseases which have ended up becoming chronic and eventually very costly to treat. Sickness has serious implications on the economy of the cities. For instance, sick city residents become unproductive making the economy lose their contribution. Additionally, the resources spent on treatment could have been utilized in other ways of economic importance to the city. Less air pollution is vital in reducing diseases associated with pollution in cities.
Pedestrianization has a direct impact in the generation of retail income for owners of small shops and stores within the city center (Bogdan-Nicolae, 2013). When vehicle access into the city center is closed, there is a definite increase in the retail income. This is especially so due to the fact that many pedestrians manage to access the central business district and undertake shopping. Retailers within the city centers make massive sales in situations on pedestrianization as opposed to situations whereby vehicles are allowed to operate within the city center. With increased sales within the city center, there is an increase in demand for space within the city center. Consequently, the rent income for the landlords’ increases as the amount paid for the space increases (Fitzgerald & Leigh, 2002). With increased pedestrianization, pedestrians have ample space to access the central districts whereby they can do extensive shopping. Pedestrians are also able to do window shopping within the central business district as there are no vehicles to prevent them from accessing such retail displays with ease. Consequently, it is possible for widespread shopping to be done based on informed choices.
City centers with pedestrianization districts often attract tourists (Kwan, 2004). Pedestrians within the district have no worry on earth about the possibility of being hit by vehicles or getting disturbed by noise emanating from vehicles. Therefore, such pedestrians undertake their shopping peacefully without any fear. Pedestrianization districts also tend to contain numerous pleasurable places that highly attract tourists. The outcome is an explosion of tourism in the city center. However, such tourism cannot be possible if pedestrianization is not enhanced (Magot & EC, 2008). This means that pedestrianization is an important economic function that needs to be considered extensively by the stakeholders involved in city planning.
Social impact is the third outcome associated with pedestrianization. The first social impact of pedestrianization is the promotion of walking as a major mode of transport within the city center (Ghobadian, 2003). Walking is an important social activity that facilitates people to interact at a close range as opposed to when they are using motor vehicles. Walking within the city center can become a daunting experience if one has to maneuver through heavy traffic. However, pedestrianization eases the agony of heavy traffic thus making the whole walking experience within the city center very interesting. Walking within the city center is also very important for the health of city residents as it provides an opportunity for good exercise.
The disadvantages of pedestrianization
Although pedestrianization has been praised for numerous reasons, there are various disadvantages that are associated with it. To start with, pedestrianization requires the government to incur huge expenses in building and maintaining pedestrian streets and walks regularly (Salingaros, 2000). Contrary to roads and parking lots, pedestrian walks do not generate any revenue for the government. This may mean that the government incurs expenditure without expecting any revenue. In consideration of the ever increasing needs for the government to raise ample revenue to meet numerous needs, pedestrianization is often dropped for other undertakings with revenue generation capability.
With the ever increasing urbanization, there is an extensive increase in demand for space within the city center. Committing large spaces for construction of pedestrian walks and streets does not go along into solving the problem of space requirement. Consequently, the government may consider using the space allocated for pedestrianization into shops and stalls for business people to rent and undertake their business activities (Lars, 1996). This option has the ability to create higher incomes as opposed to merely facilitating movement of pedestrians who may not do any shopping after all. In this regard, the government may find it more practical to create business premises in areas allocated for pedestrian walks and streets within the central business district.
Pedestrianization is considered an important aspect of the modern cities. Pedestrianization is associated with numerous benefits ranging from economic, social and environmental effects. Pedestrianization has become an important consideration on the modern city centers. Modern cities especially those in the developing nations have faced numerous challenges in relation to the level of congestion from motor vehicles and the massive population explosion in these cities. Policymakers and the government have been called upon to develop pedestrian walks and streets to facilitate ease in human movement as well as improve the conditions of these modern cities in terms of pollution and noise as well as making the environment within the cities conducive. Pedestrianization has therefore become an important measure through which the city centers can be developed effectively.
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Should All City Centers be pedestrianised?