The way we look at urban design is going to change post pandemic. The Greater Chennai Corporation is in discussion with architects, urban design experts and engineers to incorporate certain changes in upcoming projects. For instance, parks will be designed in such a way that visitors can maintain social distancing and will also have facilities for personal hygiene.
Superintending engineer, special projects, BV Babu said that the officials had several meetings and discussions on this so far. “We are attending a web seminar, hosted by the Ministry of Urban Affairs,” he said.
The seminar—Covid Free Urban Transport Solutions—will be organized by Smart City Mission, ITDP India, World Bank and GIZ SMART-SUT (Supporting Sustainable forms of transport in India). More than 1,100 people from 150 cities will participate in this conclave. Also, street interventions for safe cycling and walking will be discussed.
"We follow design guidelines released by the government. So we will attend this webinar and wait for government instructions. There is no doubt that changes in design need to be made. But to analyse the type of changes, we need to wait. Discussions are taking place and plans need to be drawn for public transport and public spaces initially," Babu said. He said smart city projects such as path for cycling will only be useful if public begin using them. "We are hopeful that people will start opting for these choices. Also mega street projects that stresses on broader pavements, cycling tracks will all cater to the future design needs," he said.
Aswathy Dilip, ITDP, said, "As we look to resume activity after the lockdown, we must ensure safe and affordable access for all – especially the most vulnerable city dwellers. In Chennai, according to the 2018 Comprehensive Mobility Plan, a third of all trips in the city are by walking and cycling. Another third by public transportation – including bus and rail. These modes will need to be planned strategically so that they are safe and efficient.
Cities across the world are using quick, cost-effective interventions to make streets safe for walking and cycling. Cities like Berlin and Bogota are reclaiming parking spaces or traffic lanes to widen footpaths and create extensive networks of cycle tracks. This is essential to ensure physical distancing or queuing in front of shops. London is shutting down streets in the city centre to traffic to promote walking and cycling as alternative modes of transport.
Earlier this month, Kerala issued a statewide order that all Sundays will be total lockdown with the exception of only walking and cycling. In addition, they also identified streets across three cities where motorized travel will be prohibited from 5am to 10am to facilitate recreational activities. While we are combating this health crisis, it is also important to ensure physical and mental wellbeing of our citizens."
It may take us months or years to win over the pandemic. Meanwhile, safe access to essential services like jobs and healthcare for all, irrespective of age, gender, income and physical ability needs to be ensured.