[op-ed snap] Why there should be more pedestrians

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The idea of pedestrianization of cities and its associated benefits


Context

No vehicle day across the world

  1. Allowing only non-motorized vehicles (NMVs) in cities and/or parts of cities is becoming an increasingly accepted policy in cities worldwide
  2. Many cities in the West have taken the lead in injecting “traffic evaporation”

Examples of full/partially vehicle free cities

  1. Madrid, Paris, New York and Portland are such examples
  2. In the East, parts of Tokyo and Kyoto give one a sense of what can be achieved when we pedestrianize certain streets
  3. Copenhagen is a shining example of such a move. It started to ban motorized vehicles in the 1960s. Now, it has over 200 miles of bike lanes and half its population bikes to work
  4. São Paulo has also banned Sunday movement of motor vehicles on Paulista Avenue—a 2.8 km stretch that is considered the testimony of Brazil’s economic vibrancy and rising stature in the global economy
  5. It is now accepted that Paulista Avenue has given a booster shot to the city’s cultural scene while breaking barriers between people

Benefits of pedestrian-only streets

  • The air quality in cities has been reported to greatly improve when a significant share of their roads are closed for motor vehicles
  1. This is largely because of action against diesel vehicles, which are primary contributors to air pollution, mostly because of emission of particulate matter (PM)
  • Such measures lead to an improved quality of life
  1. The cultural expression, free-wheeling interaction of citizens, increased physical exercise, and reduced travel times in many cases contribute to enhanced quality of life
  • Most cities that experimented with such pedestrianization also saw higher reliance on the use of bicycles
  1. Some cities witnessed emerging business models focusing on cycling
  2. After Paris created 400 miles of bicycle lanes in 2007, it also launched a bike sharing programme, Vélib, which is considered to be the largest and most used system in the West
  • It leads to an explosive increase in cultural expression
  1. Local dance and songs, theatre, street wall art, marathons, open-theatre, food walks, and night-life exploration are a few such activities
  2. Such cultural expression and the emergence of cities’ characters lead to heightened economic activity and tourism
  3. The economic gains also extend to lower costs associated with lower congestion, accidents and health expenditures
  • Improved aesthetics of the cities
  1. The deterioration of urban landscape bottoms-out, noise and air pollution declines and city infrastructure opens up to new possibilities
  • The increase in equity in cities
  1. A considerable share of the city’s population does not own a car
  2. Thus, they involuntarily share the transaction costs of congested city streets without experiencing the benefits of car ownership

Way forward

  1. Pedestrianization of cities is a nuanced, low-cost initiative that has helped cities acquire multiple benefits of a sustainable environment, good health, conviviality, creation of safe and inclusive cities, road safety and cultural revival
  2. The roll-call on benefits of restricting motorized vehicles does not imply a blanket and knee-jerk universal prohibition across cities
  3. This is a measure that needs to be carefully assessed and judiciously implemented
  4. Indian cities cannot overlook established benefits of motorization, industrialization, globalization and ease of doing business
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.
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