31 March 2010| Huma Gupta
Recently, Gary Toth praised Abu Dhabi’s new street plan design manual on Planetizen. The manual’s new principles are as follows:
- Good street design starts with pedestrians. The world’s great cities are delightful and safe for walking, resulting not only in lower rates of driving but also improved public health.
- Good street design supports Abu Dhabi’s environmental goals: reducing CO2 emissions, minimizing the urban heat island effect and reducing water consumption.
- Street connectivity enhances road capacity and allows smooth traffic flow. Congestion worsens when most vehicle traffic is funneled onto arterial streets.
- Street design follows from a sense of place. Streets are not just for movement of vehicles, but for enhancing the communities they pass through. This means paying attention to the enjoyment of residents and the success of businesses
The concepts aren’t revolutionary, but are cited as a great step towards sustainable urban design and celebration of streets as public spaces. My only question to Gary and to the Abu Dhabi manual is this:
Who wants to walk on sidewalks in the sweltering heat?
The success of street life in older Middle Eastern cities is the integration of narrow alleys, cloth awnings, and even wood frame roofs for plants to block out the sun. If the Persian Gulf truly wants to move into a more sustainable direction with its streetscapes, they will have to first tackle the issue of natural climate control and shade. Or, people can live as vampires and only come out at night. Without addressing this major concern, no amount of street beautification, connectivity, and pedestrian amenities will lure the majority of Gulf-ites/Khaleejis out of their air conditioned homes and cars.