Pedestrian strategy for New Delhi

Pedestrian over-bridges and subways offer little respite, often due to unsuitable location, poor quality of design, and/or lack of maintenance. Pedestrians tend to hit the roads, squeezing past grilled dividers and fences, risking their lives to save a little time and effort.

However, the city in recent times has managed to successfully install and operate a number of skywalks — a popular term for pedestrian foot over-bridges and elevated walkways that transport pedestrians daily above a sea of unimpeded traffic. The design for skywalks needs to be more pedestrian-centric than ever thought of before. Architects, planners, and policymakers cannot afford to neglect or make uninformed choices about the future of pedestrian mobility. In light of unfortunate incidents, the clarion call for meaningful spaces that promote walkability has been sounded.

DFI secured the opportunity to put forward an autonomous array of interventions to effectively deal with worsening traffic congestion and deteriorating safety conditions of roads in the country.

On the lines of urban design, where safety, walkability, and sustainability govern the execution process; the ITO Skywalk in New Delhi was successfully implemented connecting four principal streets at the infamous ITO intersection in Central Delhi, where no effective strategy was in place for the flood of commuters witnessed crossing the streets during rush hour. Going forward, implementing a pedestrian-first strategy for urban development will determine the route of the city’s growth.

Transport hubs – the arteries of physical mobility

While we now live in a hyperconnected digital reality, our metaphysical world presents a wide scope for improvement in connectivity.
Our current extraordinary times are seeing the lines on the map diminishing. Irrespective of the social distancing, our world is moving to an amorphous state, like a non-crystallized blob of humankind. While the means of mobility and networking connect, coalesce and complement each other, the process has made us more responsive and responsible towards our society.

Transport Hubs are critical junctions and nodes in such networks. Presently, these hubs are the arteries of physical mobility through highways, airways, railways and waterways. In contrast to this satisfying present, the demanding future will witness ‘superhighways’ of information and data, the congregation of service providers and sophisticated support functions. An ideal model would be an ecosystem which combines the activities of the present with the technology of the future, in a manner that is seamless yet distinctly identifiable and functions as a standalone micro-cosmos, self-sustained yet modular.

What would the cities of the future look like?

Indian cities have over time lost touch with themselves in trying to maintain some semblance of order. Jaipur, Delhi, Agra, and Ahmedabad—places known for their distinct architectural character, —now struggle to retain their individual identities that have been crafted through centuries of organic development, designing and sensitivity to social welfare.

While it’s true that liberalization was the game-changer that engulfed our cities with the garb of cosmopolitanism, architects and urban planners’ apathetic approach to solving new-world issues has opened the doors to the design problems that are plaguing us today.
At the grassroots level, a multi-pronged strategy may be adopted to mitigate the debilitating effects of urbanization — Decentralization of city-building down to the inhabitants, an incisive city model on the lines of walkability and pedestrian safety, and an efficient network of public infrastructure. The overarching integration of technology within this strategy is paramount.

Cities of the future will need to defragment, with a focus on necessity over wants. Low-cost housing has been driving real estate over the last few years, and architects need to propel this segment with cost-effective, modular designs, harnessing PEB technology (Pre-engineered buildings), along with a prudent selection of materials.

The hallmark of a great city is the ease of walkability that it offers to its citizens. As cliched as it may sound, cities need to be designed for people and not for cars. A walkable city is essentially a catalyst for a safer, livelier and happier urban environment. Interventions may include wider sidewalks, street furniture, ‘skywalks’ and pedestrian overbridges. Planning for the future is key, and architectural design must take into account at least a decade of potential changes the space may undergo.