Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | August 1, 2010

Connecting Neighborhoods

A reader sent me an interesting request asking if there was a way to sort of stitch the areas of Kuwait into one connected fabric:

“…the new trend in kuwait is to become more healthier, more active, more movement involved, so why not be connected closer?. Is there a way in connecting e.g. nuzha and daihya abdullah al salem (walking route)? I’m suggesting that people should be able to move from one place to the other without the use of cars.  If im going to a diwaniya in faiha or dhaiya from nuzha i should have a route allowable for bikers  ( bicycle ) walking etc… besides using bridges.”

What the reader realized is that almost all the areas of Kuwait have been cut and packaged into ostensibly self-sufficient residential ‘cells’. The crisscross of highways prevent people from moving from one cell to the other without a car. The only exclusion from this rule are the few pedestrian bridges that traverse the highways, as you can’t even cross the street because of a chain link fence.

First of all, we need to really care about and enforce rules governing public space in Kuwait. What I mean is that we need to build and maintain better sidewalks. We can’t have people parking their cars on the sidewalks and forcing people to walk on the street. That should be illegal and unless we change this habit we’ll never have walkable neighborhoods. Sidewalks need to be safe, well lit and shaded.

Personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with a pedestrian bridge. I think it’s a more than valid option, and in fact it can offer several unique opportunities. You can only access a typical bridge from two points so it will naturally act as a funnel for pedestrians and bicyclists. This means that around the entrance to a bridge you will have people walking more than in other places. This is usually also the place where most of Kuwait’s ‘mamshas’ (excercise/running paths) are located. Maybe this can be a stimulus for commercial development, which would further attract people there and create a ‘virtuous cycle’ that will get more and more people to walk.

What would the ‘commercial development’ look like? I imagine it starts off with drastically improved ‘mamsha’ infrastructure, meaning more benches, shade, water coolers and most importantly it should be well lit and have clearly delineated termination points, so people know when to turn around and go the other way.

This would develop into nodes that would nudge people to congregate around the pedestrian bridges, and we could invest in juice shops, healthy food cafes, maybe a public swimming pool, a flower garden with space for people to exhibit their homemade work and sell to people walking by, and I would anchor all of this with a mosque/library/daycare center hybrid. Of course, this can only work outside of summer. Even so, it would absolutely be worth the investment because of both the financial rewards as well as the improvements in public health and space. Eventually, as the metro routes currently being considered mostly follow our road patterns, the stops could be located at the foot of the pedestrian bridges. That would be the best place to have them and it will further strengthen the pedestrian culture that will have started to develop.

Short of drastically altering the highways system of Kuwait, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious way of stitching back the neighborhood fabric of Kuwait without building more bridges. An interesting mega solution that might work for parts of the First Ring Road and other sunken highways is to extend a park over them so that the highway becomes a tunnel and the new land above it links the two banks of the highway together, like what is being done in Los Angeles.

-A very successful pedestrian bridge in Kuwait, linking Khaldiya Campus with Adailiya.



Responses

  1. Barrak…
    love the topic. the lack of connectivity between “cells” is very clear. Not all bridges are easily accessible! a couple in mishrif are on the outer edges of the area, closer to the highways and are not visible from within the area… I’ve had to carry my bike by hand over large areas of soft sand to reach a bridge. The los angeles idea is fabulous! I feel another good option would be creating some sort of underground network like that in Canary Wharf.

    Keep up the good work and hope to see u sometime mate!

  2. I agree with you about building the parks above the highways, we do need to stitch some areas together!

    I always want to walk but the walkways aren’t maintained either, they just decide once every few years to paint them this pastel green or pastel blue color which looks hideous!

    I like the new Ads they have put on the 1st ring road! I don’t know why they don’t put more of them up for advertising, and really have regulations for design that you have to brand the whole front of the bridge, not just company name and symbol, a little creativity to brighton things up!

    As you said before, they shouldn’t pack these areas into just being areas where you sleep but living communities, spacing them out a bit to give people breathing room!

  3. If the infastrucutre on each side of such a bridge isn’t available the don’t serve much of a purpose… As an avid pedestrian in Kuwait it’s remarkable how difficult and convoluted the pedestrian routes are around such cross-overs… A few years I taught a class at KU exploring this topic, i.e. how to provide a more ‘fluid’ means of crossing or connecting two adjacent neighbourhoods separated by a highway, the aim being to provide or create an environment that trancended beyond being a ‘mere’ crossing point into a realm where the space/ area of the crossing became a visit worthy entity in its own right… The students came up, during the quite short, but intensive, assignment period, with some truly interesting and potentially catalytic proposals…

    The talent is there to come up and develop this sort of projects. Now all we need is a bit more focus, perseverance and commitment from those with some say…


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