Well planned street systems in cities hold the key to better mobility, provision of urban basic services as well as economic productivity, UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos has said.
Delhi street scene, India © UN-HABITAT/John Hogan
In a working paper he had just released, Dr. Clos says urban planners must address well thought out streets when coming with urban plans. He says that in the proportion of un-built areas of the cities, a structural role is played by the street system.
"It usually accounts for 80% of the un-built area. The street system provides the connectivity matrix for the city, which is fundamental for urban mobility. The efficiency of this mobility is a determinant for urban economic productivity. Secondly, the street pattern also provides the matrix for the layout of urban basic services, mainly energy, water supply and sanitation, drainage, transportation, parking slots and other services.
According to the Executive Director, the affordability of these urban services is related also the quality of street patterns. He further adds that the street pattern, including plazas and public gardens, is the key element of personal interaction and communication between the citizens. In that sense, it defines the cultural and political quality of city life.
"Fourthly, the walkability of the spaces, the safety of the sidewalks and the form and location of shops along the street determines the quality and quantity of street life. When safety and security issues arise, public space is abandoned and gated communities emerge as a form of protection against the rest of the city. This results in the failure in the function of cultural life of the street", he states.
Dr. Clos categorically states that the relevance of street patterns and public space requires planning at the initial stage of urban growth. Otherwise, he stresses, if urbanization happens spontaneously the introduction of public space afterwards becomes very difficult and expensive, both politically and economically.
"This paradox of the public space is that we need to design it in advance of the growth. Usually, when governments face the initial stage of growth, there is insufficient legal and technical capacity to address the planning issue. A political decision should be firmly in place to avoid the risk of unplanned growth. The perverse consequences are congestion, inequalities, segregations and lack of street life and safety. Together, this jeopardizes the chances of prosperity for the people living in the city", he notes.