The urban highways are being dismantled in several cities across the world. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is a pioneer of this concept. In 2003, an expressway in the city’s Central Business District (CBD) was demolished to reclaim a natural creek Cheonggyecheon. It was found that though the expressway served the mobility needs of the burgeoning car owners, it severely diminished the attractiveness of CBD which lost around 40,000 residents and 80,000 jobs in 10 years after the expressway was completed.
Seoul, Korea implemented a car restriction policy and established designated several kilometers of median lanes for buses resulting in increased accessibility to public transport. According to the traffic surveys by Seoul Metropolitan Government, the number of vehicles entering or leaving 24 entry/exist points along the Cheonggyecheon in 2006 decreased by 43 per cent and 47 per cent, respectively, as compared to their 2002 baselines.
The commercial area started attracting investors and property prices in the area increased. Improvement in air quality and reduction of noise pollution were additional advantages. Now, more than 50,000 people daily visit the creek for recreational activities.
Similar success stories also exist in Paris, Berlin and US cities of New York, Portland, San Francisco and Milwaukee. Our cities need to lay more stress on public transport. A car’s average household trip occupancy rate is 1.1 but it takes around 23 sq. m, the same area which can host several cyclists. This will also help save the foreign reserve, one third of which is currently being spent on oil import.
by: Navdeep Asija.
Navdeep is a civil engineering research scholar working in the field of road safety.