ABU DHABI // A series of bold initiatives designed to turn Abu Dhabi from a gridlocked car capital into one of the world's most pedestrian-friendly cities was unveiled by planners yesterday. The plans include shaded walkways, a metro system and a tram network. Streets will be narrower but there will be more of them, and the city's superblocks will be broken up to make way for open public spaces.
"We want to see a shift from streets without activity to lively public places," said Falah al Ahbabi, the general manager of the Urban Planning Council (UPC). "From auto-filled streets and lack of public space to limited on-street parking and welcoming public open spaces." The transformation is outlined in the Urban Street Design Manual, a 130-page document compiled by the UPC, that sets guidelines for the remaking of the city by 2030.
The manual describes a series of interconnected street networks in which the pedestrian comes first. The motorist, long king of the road in the UAE, is relegated to the bottom of the priority list. Streets will be designed to make walking a more pleasant experience as planners push to get people using public transport, including a Metro system, scheduled to be running by 2016, and a tram network that could be placed down the centre of existing streets. "Because all trips begin and end with a walk, walking should be made as comfortable as possible all year round in Abu Dhabi," Mr al Ahbabi said.
The scheme is part of the greater Abu Dhabi 2030 project. Designers say that, for the plan to work, the capital's enormous superblocks must be carved up, criss-crossed by smaller streets to disperse traffic and broken into parcels with pedestrian-friendly amenities like shops and schools. "We actually have got plans to start redeveloping the city centre blocks," said Bill Lashbrook, the UPC's planning manager.
"It is a sea of car parking largely in there at the moment. "There are a few mosques [but] there are very few parks in there, few schools or community facilities." The manual is also designed to reduce carbon emissions, urban heat gain and water use. The document must be used for all new developments, including the Capital District, the future seat of government for the UAE, to be built between Mohammed bin Zayed City and Abu Dhabi International Airport.