A great street contributes to what a city should be. People must be able to get to the street with ease, whether they are walking, cycling, using a wheelchair or waiting for public transport. In Mumbai’s prime business district of Lower Parel, plans are underway to implement such a model. #onechange
Streets form the foundation of any development model — they do not just shape human health but also determine the growth prospects in the future, without compromising on environmental ideals. Research reveals that more than 80 percent of public space is dominated by streets in urban cities. In the words of urban designer Allan Jacobs, there is a need for great streets. But what are they? “It is those that make a community. A great street should be a most desirable place to be, to spend time, to live, to play, to work, at the same time that it markedly contributes to what a city should be," he describes.
Interestingly, a great location is incomplete without great connectivity, and that, in turn, is incomplete without great roads.
The imageability of a certain location is dependent on how one approaches it, says Rohit Tak — Urban Design and Urban Mobility Expert, and Fulbright Scholar. A well-planned street corridor can make a mark on people’s memories and encourage them to access it repeatedly.
“Imagine having a great public place with an iconic landmark but a street full of traffic, chaos, and people fighting for space to walk towards it. Does this sound inviting? Also, one can’t forget that a major purpose of streets is to enable commuters to get from one place to another. They aren’t just limited to a location on the street, but to and from areas beyond it," he adds.
What is it that makes a great street?
Tak believes that inclusive accessibility is key to making a great street. People must be able to get to the street with ease, whether they are walking, cycling, using a wheelchair, or waiting for public transport. “And while commuting, streets shall have spaces for users to pause, relax, and simply experience being in the public realm," he adds.
There are several examples of great streets in the world, including the Champs-Élysées, a 1.2-mile boulevard in Paris. Although it was laid out 300 years ago, its character has evolved throughout history.
“The greatness of it lies in the fact that it is a street for all activities and not just one. It is an extended linear public space in Paris connecting the iconic Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. It is surrounded by some of the world’s top retail businesses. Yet, it has a place for all street users and offers diverse activities around it. In a nutshell, it has a strong image and identity," explains Tak.
Mumbai, also known as India’s financial capital, looks stunning from a bird’s-eye view, but only the residents know about the daily struggles. Traffic congestion is an issue that has plagued the city for decades. Not only does it lead to waste of time and energy, but also adds to the stress of commuters.
“The city is certainly progressing in many ways, but there are problem areas that remain untouched even today. Traffic congestion is one such thing," says Akash Singla, a 42-year-old Mumbai-based marketing professional.
The mode share data of Mumbai suggests that 51 percent of the commuters in the city are pedestrians and cyclists, 25 percent commute by train, 12 percent commute by buses, five percent by taxis/ autos and two percent are private car/ bike commuters. However, when it comes to the public right-of-way distribution, a larger share is given to car commuters.
“This adds up to the traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, increased road safety issues and, thus, the poor quality of life in the city," says Tak, adding that Mumbai needs a paradigm shift from “moving cars to move people"! If Mumbai wants to compete with world-class cities to offer a better quality of life for its people, streets, as democratic entities, are the spaces where change should begin.
One such change is coming to Lower Parel, a prime business district in Mumbai. This is ‘one change’ that can hugely impact the lives of the citizens.