Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Sydney pedestrians

Sydney pedestrians are a downtrodden lot. Jan Gehl, urban design dude, talks about how the city could be a better place:

We found many footpaths interrupted by drive-ways and carpark entrances. Here the pedestrian should be king, not the delivery van going into a parking bay.

We also noticed in our Sydney survey that some groups were very obviously absent from the city: children and the elderly. A civilised city welcomes all, and provides access for baby strollers and wheelchairs; it lets vulnerable people feel safe. A city for children also provides delight and surprise in creative public space and art.

But how can we do that, if the streets are wall-to-wall traffic? Where are the shared-zone streets or pedestrian laneways?

Above all, where is the sense of Sydney as a great harbour city, which should be celebrated in many different ways with recycled water used in features throughout the CBD. We need to thread water through the city as a reminder that this is part of Sydney's unique spirit, that we are, even in mid-town, in Sydney and not in Kansas City.

If Sydney is to deal with climate change and remain a great global city, the creation of a welcoming city for pedestrians and cyclists will mark a giant step forward. It can only benefit all residents and businesses because, as I have said before, a good city is like a good party - people will always stay longer than they planned.

Polly Seidler got a letter about it in today's SMH:

While we all wish Jan Gehl and our Lord Mayor well in their aims to make Sydney more friendly to pedestrians, surely, unless Sydney's wider public transport system is addressed and cars are forbidden in the town centre (as they are in Vienna), city office parking spaces will continue to be marks of prestige for our top executives and the only way to allow unencumbered pedestrian walking will be within a spaghetti of overflying freeways as it is in Darling Harbour.

Polly Seidler, Darlinghurst

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