Who Gives Life To A City, People or Cars?

(Erum Jamal Tamimi, Islamabad)

Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, is undergoing a rapid transformation into a concrete jungle, with soaring skyscrapers and expanding road networks dominating the landscape. However, amidst this urban evolution, a critical concern is emerging – the lack of thoughtful planning for pedestrians. The city's development seems to prioritize vehicles over pedestrians, raising questions about the urban planning strategy. As Islamabad undergoes a remarkable transformation into a bustling metropolis, what challenges do pedestrians face in Islamabad? Moreover, why should we advocate for a more inclusive approach to city planning that caters to the needs of all citizens?

The current stress on making roads signal-free for vehicles leaves pedestrians struggling to find safe routes. The absence of well-defined pedestrian footpaths exacerbates the risk for those on foot, forcing them to share space with fast-moving vehicles. This poses a significant safety hazard, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the handicapped, and schoolchildren.

Pedestrian signals on zebra crossings are essential for the safety of people crossing a road. According to WALKability Asia, 36% of the people in Islamabad choose walking as a mode of travel. With more than a million people living in this city, that is a considerable number. Even though most people walk in Islamabad, traffic signals often favor vehicular flow and neglect the safety of pedestrians.

The H-8 sector is a busy school zone and in one particular 4-way intersection in H-8 the dangers to the pedestrians crossing roads are visible. Firstly, there is no pedestrian signal that would indicate when to cross the road. Secondly, the red light doesn’t stop vehicles from taking a left turn. This means that crossing this intersection is never safe as the flow of vehicular traffic is virtually never-ending. Children that go to schools in the sector would surely appreciate not having to run for their life, trying to cross the road, just to get to the morning assembly. A pedestrian signal can save them from this dreadful morning routine.

Urban planning strategy must prioritize the creation of sidewalks, ensuring they are well-maintained and easily accessible. Furthermore, incorporating pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, such as zebra crossings, overhead bridges, and underpasses, can significantly enhance safety for those on foot. Connecting metro bridges on signal free expressways to both sides of the road can be an easy solution for providing safe crossing points. Implementing these suggestions will not only enhance the overall urban experience but also cater to the needs of diverse demographics.

Contrary to the prevailing trend in Islamabad, as well as in other Pakistani cities, developed countries have demonstrated a commitment to human-centric urban planning. Cities in these nations prioritize pedestrians over cars, recognizing that it is people who bring life and vibrancy to urban spaces. In such cities, pedestrians enjoy well-designed pathways, lush green spaces, and safe crossing points. A busy street in Ginza, Tokyo is closed to traffic on Sundays and pedestrians roam freely, visiting the famous shops on that street. This is just one of the many examples of pedestrian-centric planning from around the world.

Human-centric urban planning is rare in cities across Pakistan. Being a pedestrian in other cities is just as dangerous, if not more so. Urban planning authorities should make pedestrian safety a priority. Cities should be designed to enhance the quality of life for their residents, prioritizing pedestrians over cars. As developed countries have shown, a city's true vitality emerges when it is centered around its people. By adopting inclusive urban planning models that prioritize pedestrians can, not only ensure the safety and convenience of its residents, but also create a thriving urban environment that celebrates the essence of human life. The call for human-centric cities is a call for a more connected, vibrant, and livable Islamabad and other Pakistani cities.

Erum Jamal Tamimi
About the Author: Erum Jamal Tamimi Read More Articles by Erum Jamal Tamimi : 9 Articles with 9687 views Masters in Mass Communication, I feel writing is a best way to help the the society by becoming voice of common man... View More