by Katrin Scholz-Barth, President, SustainableQATAR
Cities are human habitats that present themselves most characteristically through their architecture and public spaces. Less prominently, but just as importantly, cities are defined by their roads and infrastructure, influencing our opinions of them. Cities are all about connecting people, places, and spaces which make transportation and infrastructure essential lifelines.
SustainableQATAR dedicates April to transportation, connectivity, and mobility for our weekly challenges. Let us champion environmental sustainability through personal actions to reduce transportation-related emissions.
As Qatar grows and expands, we see a mad rush in infrastructure projects from road construction to finishing the metro for public transportation. Infrastructure is expensive to build, expensive to maintain, takes up valuable public space, and impacts land use. In addition, it is often congested.
There seems to be a conflict for space between people with and without cars. However, cities around the world from Bogota to New York have realized opportunities in this perceived conflict and recognize that streets are one of the most valuable resources a city has – hidden assets and gems in plain sight. We only need to look at them differently, through the lens of quality of life, community health and a thriving economy.
Modern, developed, sophisticated cities are not defined by their highways but by their quality walkways, protected and connected bike paths and green ways that reflect and celebrate human dignity. Just like birds need to fly, fish need to swim, and deer need to run, we need to walk.
Modern, developed, sophisticated cities consider street design a key to their future and have started to steer ‘traffic’ in a new direction, using a new model of connectivity to optimize distribution of people and resources. This new model treats streets like public spaces to maximize efficient mobility to enjoy the city, to make streets fun, efficient, and safe for everyone who uses them.
It is no surprise that the United Nations assigned Sustainable Development Goal #9 to Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure in recognizing the importance of connectivity between people, physically, and digitally. Connectivity is why cities thrive; it’s not a zero-sum game between moving traffic and creating public spaces. It’s a home run for sustainable urbanization that also addresses climate change. Cities can share and exchange knowledge, technologies and policies to reduce traffic related emissions through an inter-cities-network.
Connectivity is not charity; it is one of the most important asset classes. Connected people and cities make for happier, healthier, and safer communities, and bring greater stability and peace.
Enrique Peñalosa “Why busses represent democracy in action” TEDCity2.0. 2013
Janette Sadik-Khan “New York’s Streets? Not so mean anymore” TEDCity2.0. 2013
Parag Khanna “How Megacities are changing the map of the world” TED2016