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How to fight climate change? make cities walkable, says expert
The Hindu  |  July 30, 2019

Ajeet Mahale Mumbai

Planners must prioritise people, not cars, to create sustainable smart cities, says urban design expert Uwe S. Brandes


The global response to climate change must involve creating low-carbon cities, and the key to that lies in making cities walkable, according to Uwe S. Brandes, an academician and urban design expert.


Mr. Brandes, an associate professor at Georgetown University in the U.S., is in Mumbai as part of a 10-day tour of India discussing smart cities with various stakeholders. In Mumbai, he will interact with officials from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, City and Industrial Development Corporation and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and planners from think tanks and academic institutions.


Building larger pedestrian pathways, creating a mixed land use pattern with commercial and residential establishments and integrating government services and institutions such as schools and hospitals were some of the quick ways to make existing cities more walkable, he said. “We have 5,000 years of experience of doing this, except for the last 75 years. So, it can be achieved.”


Mr. Brandes said planners had been prioritising planning of cities around cars as opposed to people, which had to change if one sought to create sustainable smart cities. “Just because we have models for how we built cities in the past, does not mean we have to use those in the future. We can be much smarter about making decisions since we have a lot more data,” he said.


He said cities needed to integrate different modes of transport and incorporate ideas like congestion pricing to achieve sustainability. “We need roads and highways but the problem is when the population perceives automobiles to be the only mobility solution,” he said.


Big highway projects, in particular, worry him as they may end up creating demand for vehicles where there was none to begin with.