WALK­ERS TAK­ING STEPS TO PRO­TECT TREKKING TURF

With more ve­hi­cles clog­ging mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s road­ways, feet and tires are in­creas­ingly com­pet­ing for space

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page - By TAN YINGZI in Chongqing tany­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

Eighty-year-old Zhu Xi­uy­ing, who has lived in down­town Chongqing since child­hood, used to travel ev­ery­where in the hilly city in South­west China on foot.

Walk­ing was the main way that most res­i­dents got around. Since an­cient times, nu­mer­ous walk­ing trails or small roads that wend their way around the moun­tains have helped to con­nect com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple’s lives.

“Some­times, walk­ing is faster than trav­el­ing by car,” Zhu said. “It is also a good way to so­cial­ize and ex­er­cise.”

But with China’s rapid ur­ban­iza­tion and the ris­ing num­ber of ve­hi­cles, old neigh­bor­hoods are dis­ap­pear­ing as large-scale in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment pro­ceeds. Walk­ing space is be­ing lost as Chongqing looks to a fu­ture de­signed to ac­com­mo­date more cars.

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Zhu and her neigh­bors found that walk­ing in the city had be­come dif­fi­cult.

To build a liv­able and sus­tain­able en­vi­ron­ment, a pilot pro­gram has been launched in down­town ar­eas to im­prove the walk­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and qual­ity of life.

Tra­di­tional sys­tem

Sur­rounded by the Jial­ing and Yangtze rivers, Chongqing boasts a his­tory of more than 3,000 years. The city first took shape on the hilly Yuzhong Penin­sula, which be­came the cen­ter of the lo­cal econ­omy.

A sur­vey by the Chongqing Plan­ning In­sti­tute shows that walk­ing is the most im­por­tant and pop­u­lar way of get­ting around for peo­ple liv­ing on the penin­sula, with 53 per­cent of them choos­ing it as their pri­mary method of trans­porta­tion.

Yu Jun, deputy chief plan­ner at the in­sti­tute, said, “Walk­ing in Chongqing is not only a way of trans­porta­tion but a unique lo­cal cul­ture.”

Walk­ing through old neigh­bor­hoods and com­mu­ni­ties that have a rich cul­ture and his­tory is an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, he said. It is also con­ve­nient to use the walk­ing trails, as they of­fer short­cuts.

“Most im­por­tant, these streets and al­leys be­come lo­cal peo­ple’s com­mon life space. They are the root of our city,” Yu said.

He said the streets pro­vide peo­ple with a pub­lic space to meet and in­ter­act.

“Only through such com­mu­ni­ca­tion can a city be­come cre­ative and vi­brant,” he said, adding, “Just look at the pedes­trian net­work in great cities such as Lon­don, Paris and Florence.”

Since 2003, Yu has worked with the lo­cal gov­ern­ment to iden­tify seven ma­jor walk­ing trails across the penin­sula and put them on the cul­tural her­itage list.

With much at­ten­tion paid to green­ing and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in re­cent years, large cities have be­gun to ex­plore more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly means of trans­porta­tion. In 2011, the Yuzhong Penin­sula be­came a na­tional pilot zone for green trans­porta­tion and launched ef­forts to cre­ate a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment for walk­ers.

In­ter­na­tional in­put

Gehl, an ur­ban re­search and de­sign con­sult­ing com­pany in Copen­hagen, the Dan­ish cap­i­tal, was in­vited to work with the Chongqing Plan­ning In­sti­tute on the project.

Founded in 2000 by ar­chi­tect Jan Gehl and ur­ban de­signer Helle So­holt, the com­pany spe­cial­izes in im­prov­ing the qual­ity of ur­ban life by re­ori­ent­ing city de­sign to­ward the pedes­trian and cy­clist.

Jan Gehl, the com­pany’s se­nior ad­viser, wrote in the case study Chang­ing Cities in Five Steps: A guide to Achiev­ing Liv­able and Sus­tain­able Cities: “For decades the hu­man di­men­sion has been an over­looked and hap­haz­ardly ad­dressed ur­ban plan­ning topic. A com­mon fea­ture of al­most all cities is that the peo­ple who use city space in great num­bers have been in­creas­ingly poorly treated.

“Lim­ited space, ob­sta­cles, noise, pol­lu­tion, risk of ac­ci­dents and gen­er­ally dis­grace­ful con­di­tions are typ­i­cal for those liv­ing in most of the world’s cities, re­gard­less of global lo­ca­tion, eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity and stage of de­vel­op­ment.

“This turn of events has not only re­duced the op­por­tu­ni­ties for pedes­tri­an­ism as a form of trans­port, but also placed the so­cial and cul­tural func­tions of city space un­der siege. For­tu­nately, sev­eral cities re­al­ize the value of putting hu­mans first in or­der to cre­ate more lively, safe, sus­tain­able and healthy ar­eas.”

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