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Freitag, 1.07.2022
eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001

With all the hype around e-mobility and the electrification of transportation systems growing day by day, I recently came to realize that when it comes to truly understanding and building smart cities the only mode of transportation that can help is an age old medium known to most as walking. Yes, you read it right, WALKING. You might be wondering, "Gideon, are you sure you're okay?", and I really do appreciate your concern for me, but personally I feel that there is an inherent tendency walking has to overload the senses, which makes me believe that it is the most effective medium to really observe cities. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I am not a fan of electrifying transportation, but while everyone's fascination with transportation is completely understandable, there are aspects of city development I feel get lost when you just drive through a city rather than take the time and effort to walk it through.

Now, its not that I suddenly woke up today morning with profound new respect for walking through cities - which would have been nice - but its the fact that this past year I have had the privilege of just walking through a few cities in Europe (This had nothing to do with the fact that I was forced to walk since I don't have a car to drive around here, yet). The cities that I got to walk around during my first year are Stockholm, Barcelona, Antwerp, Turin and Milan. In each of these cities, there were so many things that just kept being etched into my mind just as I walked which I feel would not have otherwise clicked with me had I just driven past any of these places. I say this because at least with me, when it comes to driving, I tend to get lost in the music and the roads and my appreciation for the environment and the intricacies involved are not exactly at its highest.

Priorities

While walking, you are able to realize what priorities cities place - intentionally or unintentionally - on either walking, cycling, cars, public transport. Walking through Stockholm, I noticed that pedestrians (walking) are given the highest preference since there are spacious walkways and narrower roads - and in some cases no car zones - in various commercial areas. Another aspect, is that parking is quite the hassle in Stockholm, and I feel that this was done intentionally, in order to encourage people to use their cars less often. A beautiful example of this would be the main street (T-Centralen), where there are numerous shops where people can just move freely without having any worries about any cars coming in between. Parkings at this place is also not exactly easy to find, so its easier to just walk there or use the metro/tram. In Milan, however, there was a particular shopping street (similar to the one in Stockholm) that was extremely busy, but had a huge road going down the middle, with shops/cafes on either side of the road. Yes, the walkways were wide, but the continuous cars going past gave a very different vibe. It does not give the same sort of serenity and peace of mind to actually shop as much as I experienced in Stockholm.

Another instance was in Antwerp , where in my opinion they placed heavy importance on cyclists as compared to pedestrians, which obviously has its own set of pros and cons. However, for me, it kept me a little on edge because you would suddenly have cyclists whizzing past you on their cycle lanes (which I felt at times overlapped with the pedestrian walkways). But when you look at the proportion of cyclists, it gave me a lot of reasons to smile, since the amount of emissions involved would significantly keep dropping.

Cities as a Puzzle

Another really amusing thing that you can notice while walking through cities, is that you will be able to almost instantaneously identify the transition in the area you are walking through. What I mean by this, is while we were walking through Milan, we were able to see multiple different facets of the city in one walk itself. We started off in the tourist center, then walked long enough to go through the commercial district mentioned above, and then walked through an area where from the shops/restaurants it was clear that we were in a region that had more of an immigrant populace. Normally, just driving past regions like this wouldn't necessarily make you understand the subtleties involved with each area of the city. It was simply fascinating to see how the shops/restaurants, the types of buildings in each of those areas and the built environment gradually started changing. Each respective area, had its own charm and had aspects that I found quite interesting in terms of making cities more pedestrian friendly.

What really makes me value this particular experience was the fact that I was really able to appreciate the fact that cities are like puzzles in terms of diversity, which makes it all the more important to know how to fit the pieces altogether. The pieces most surely fit together, but it depends on how collaborative the approach is to the planning and execution, and this bears reference to a point I made in previous article about the importance of people and their unique perspectives. Imagine a hypothetical scenario, wherein a group of different societal actors (politicians, citizens, corporate employees, public sector employees, etc.), were able to just take a walk through regions of the city on occasion and just have an open dialogue about everyone's different viewpoint. Personally I feel that a scenario like this would really give all parties involved a much more rounded view and might most likely give them a unique insight that they might not have necessarily received otherwise.

A Body is made up of Many Parts

I believe that this saying holds true at least when it comes to my approach to Smart Cities. The cities I mentioned - and cities in general - all have their own pros and cons, and their own respective rationales for why they were set up the way they are. But my takeaway is that walking around as many different cities, or even exploring your own city, has this wonderful ability to mold your perspective. That mixed with your own personality and experiences, will provide a unique insight that only you can bring to the table. Similarly, just as how unique your perspective is, each person in society has an equally unique perspective.

Which again brings me to my point of the emphasis on engaging in conversations with different people when it comes to the topic of Smart Cities. No matter how much money, technology, environmental indicators have been pumped in or put in place, a city cannot be smart if there is a one track mind approach to the planning and execution.

Till I See You Again

As I mention with all my articles, this is just my view on the topic, and I really hope that it helps grow your perspective even by just a little bit. Furthermore, as always, I am open to having conversations if you happen to agree or even disagree with anything I have put forth. Another point to note is that I am in no way, shape or form trying to offend any particular city, but just wanted to let everyone know that each and every city had its pros that I personally will be considering to mold my own Smart City approach.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Jeremy Gideon J.

Quelle/Source: Linked in, 18.05.2022

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