For urbanization in China's cities to be truly human-centered, pedestrianization plans must be thoroughly considered.
According to Wei Li of the World Resources Institute, over 100 cities in China have at least one pedestrian-only street. Vibrant pedestrian-centric commercial centers are a long-held tradition in China's cities, where the word for "shopping" means "strolling around the streets." However, because efforts to improve walkability compete with the resource demands of economic modernization, pedestrianization tends to focus on the benefits to commercial development and tourism.
Li offers the Bund waterfront retrofit in Shanghai as a model of forward-thinking development that takes into consideration not only commercial goals but also the concerns of local pedestrians. The waterfront was previously blocked by 11 lanes of traffic and plagued with congestion of tourists and vehicles alike. "By removing seven lanes from the street, the project reduced 70 percent of vehicle traffic in the area. The project also tore down the elevated section of the highway and replaced it with crosswalks, increasing overall pedestrian connectivity."
With human-centered urbanization a hallmark of the current Five-Year Plan, Li feels "it is time for Chinese cities to design or redesign their streets for pedestrians in big ways."
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