What makes a good city?

Creative Commons License photo credit: A. Strakey

A prerequisite of a good city is mixed use neighborhoods, density and walkable streets.  Let’s take examples.  London, New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo are great cities for this sole reason.  These cities have residential, offices, retail, hospitality all adjacent to each other and buildings are built with negligible or zero car parks.

A $ 12 million apartment in New York facing Central Park where Jack Welch and David Esner have apartments has zero car parks.  On the other hand   Los Angeles or Phoenix is designed for the automobile with a horizontal spread. It is called the dollar a gallon gasoline architecture or as we would say Rs. 10 per litre architecture.

Think about the difference .Which are better cities? Whom should we draw inspiration from?

Mumbai v/s Delhi

In India, Mumbai works well and inspires its citizens to work productively because of the way it is built.  Mumbai as compared to any city in India has the maximum proportion of people who use public transport or walk to work. It has the fundamentals that are needed top make a good city –Density, Mixed use.

When you look at other cities like Lutyens Delhi and Chandigarh – Are the a sustainable city?  They are great showpieces to shock and awe.   But you cannot make the entire city into a plaza.  Lutyens Delhi has large roads with such low densities that make even the road highly unaffordable to maintain.  The footpaths become unsafe because there is such low density.  And there is no shopping to disrupt the imperial grandeur which makes the roads further unsafe  -  remember shopping along a street makes a street safe to work on but also everyone has to commute by a private car even to get a toothpaste.

India is lazy to build cities

We must also understand the decay of our cities took place because of the mindset we got ourselves in the past few decades.  Gandhi our greatest icon, our greatest leader said so many good things but we have taken to heart the one thing he was wrong about.  He said the future of India lies in our villages. Today the rural sector engages 60% of people in a substinence level and it constitutes only 16%  of our GDP.  We deliberately resist and control urban migration because we are too lazy to build cities.

No country can progress if we have such a high percentage unproductively employed in rural areas.  Only with urbanization can we provide meaningful education, health services, cultural facilities and job opportunities. You cannot provide a history teacher, a maths and physics teach a Kidney specialist and a Cardiac Surgeon to little hamlets and villages. More importantly only through urbanization can there be elimination of medieval mindsets, superstitious ideas and achieve a deceleration in population growth.

So what does constitute a livable city?

It should have mixed use neighbourhoods.   Mixed use neighbourhoods where every 200 acres of development is self contained where all activities of residential, commercial, retail, hospitality and basic entertainment facilities are available

1. It should be walkable with large footpaths along its roads.

2. It should be totally automobile independent, as all the major cities of the world are, London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.  The roads should be full of taxis and buses with a minimum of private vehicles.  In these cities one does not need a driving license to survive.

3. Great public places where people can congregate.

4. Housing for all its citizens.



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