Connaught Place will thrive without cars

It will make CP a more vibrant space and will break myths around negative impact of pedestrianisation on business.

 |  4-minute read |   18-01-2017
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When the ministry of urban development funded Rs 450 crore for redevelopment of Connaught Place in 2006, one of the key conditions for the allocation was that the area would be pedestrianised. The move was then opposed by traders who felt that restriction of motor vehicles would decrease footfall and impact business. The fear was misplaced.

For, global and local experiences show that a pedestrianised public space not only increases the quality of that area, it also draws more people, thus improving trade. Considering this, the UD ministry’s recent move to make CP vehicle-free is one in the right direction.

If executed well, the step will make CP a much more vibrant and livable space and will also break myths around negative impact of pedestrianisation on business.

cpbd_011817041327.jpg If executed well, the step will make CP a much more vibrant and livable space and will also break myths around negative impact of pedestrianisation on business.

Phenomenon

There are more than 300 car-free zones around the world and the number is only increasing. In November 1962, Copenhagen’s main street, Strøget, was pedestrianised and this initiated an urban transformation phenomenon. Today 80 per cent of all journeys in Copenhagen are made on foot, and 14 per cent by bicycle.

Car traffic in the city centre has been reduced significantly and congestion is no longer a problem. Similarly, in the 1970s the pedestrianisation of Nuremberg resulted in probably the first study directly linking the move with air quality. In Burgos (Spain), the city’s historic centre was pedestrianised between 2006 and 2008 to reduce air pollution and protect city monuments, resulting in 30 per cent increase in the number of pedestrians and a remarkable 200 per cent increase in the number of cyclists.

Bogota in Colombia saw the creation of hundreds of km of pedestrian-only streets and plazas during Mayor Enrique Penalosa’s first term from 1998 to 2001. The city now has the world’s longest pedestrian street with 17-kmlong Alameda el Porvenir, which connects the city’s low-income southwest district with public schools, libraries, and BRT stations.

The most iconic pedestrianisation project is in New York City where, in 2009, the city closed a portion of Broadway in Times Square to cars for use as a pedestrian plaza initially for six months and later made it permanent. Fatih Municipality proposed a pedestrianisation project to expand sustainable mobility and create a more accessible Historic Peninsula for Istanbul in Turkey in 2010. Since then, the municipality has pedestrianised 295 streets, benefiting roughly 2.5 million people who walk on the streets of the Historic Peninsula every day.

Economics

When Times Square in New York was proposed to be closed for cars, traders thought they would lose business. However, just one year after the launch of the project, only 15 per cent of the retail managers perceived any negative impact on their store’s ability to conduct business. Data showed that the number of people walking on the closed street went up by 11 per cent and the pedestrian volume rose by six per cent in the first year alone, due to which the project soon garnered much support from traders. This trend is not only confined to New York or Western cities.

A similar experience was seen in India, when Raahgiri Day was started in Gurugram. The closure of main streets for few hours on Sunday has shown positive impact on businesses around the area. In fact, a study by WRI India after one year of organising Raahgiri Day in Connaught Place showed that 89 per cent of business establishments surveyed supported the closure of inner circle on Sundays.

Over 24 per cent supported the concept due to increase in sales and 60 per cent due to revival of CP on Sundays.

Implementation

Cities need to put focus back on people instead of vehicles because while mobility is important for economic development, unsustainable mobility can lead to degradation in urban areas due to increased vehicle emissions, decreased safety and serious marginalisation.

Pedestrianisation can have a significant positive impact on urban centres by provoking changes in the characteristics of traffic flow and usage pattern, but it is not an easy task. Even the Times Square pedestrianisation, which is a global success story today, failed to take off in the 1960s and the ’70s.

Similarly, the CP pedestrianisation project is a two-decade-old conversation but is only seeing the light of day today — hopefully. Successful implementation will not only transform CP but also reinforce the logic of planning away from vehicles.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Also read: Indian public transport system has a flat tyre

Writer

Amit Bhatt Amit Bhatt @amitbhatt4u

The writer is head of transport at WRI India - EMBARQ.

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