I am not sure whether what I am putting up now will be of interest to all. But those who live in big cites and towns, and are used to crowded, high traffic zones in urban environments, will probably like and agree with this contrarian view on urbanisation.
In a recent interview to an Indian newspaper, Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, said that the quality of footpaths (and not highways) determine the quality of life in a city. "The single biggest difference between the infrastructure of an advanced nation and a backward nation is its footpaths, not its highways," he said, comparing countries in Asia and Africa with those of Europe. As a big advocate of walkways, cycle paths and street life, Penelosa points out that for reasons of equity as well as practical efficiency, pedestrians and public transport must be given priority over private car owners. "Bigger roads and flyovers will never solve the problem of traffic. It has never solved the problem in any city in the world," he says. “If there is more space, there will be more cars to clog the space."
As a resident of a capital city in a developing nation, I couldn't agree with Penelosa more. At more than 4 million vehicles, Delhi has the highest vehicular traffic in the country. Each day some 600 vehicles get added to the roads. In spite of all the measures taken by the government to ease the flow of traffic (flyovers and underspasses) and control emissions (the public transport runs on CNG), Delhi continues to be one of the most polluted cities in the world. As a kid, I had the privilege of cycling to the farthest corners of the city with not a care about anything. I can't see my son doing the same, given the number of accidents on the road that I read about every day in the newspapers. Every road in the city is teeming with vehicles (thanks to easy loans made available by automobile companies). I don't know if I will ever see the day when this city will clear up spaces to create broad walkways for the citizens along busy roads and highways.
My only hope is that as more people take to using Delhi's efficient Metro rail system (and use less of their private vehicles), they will relieve the vehicular pressure off the roads and help themselves to cleaner air. But in the long term, urban planners in the developing world will have to draw fresh plans to refashion and recreate their cities to provide not only the basic amenities to its people but also the much-need quality of life.