The development of car-friendly cities in the 70s and the 80s gave rise to a trend of desired development on the lines of exclusion. These were also the cities that created the image of the new urban — today blatantly copied over all ‘developing’ cities. The development put design for the automobile at the centre of its design principles, generating streets, residential neighbourhoods, markets, parking lots unsafe for people, and even more so for citizens who needed additional protection. As such, citizens like the aged and the children fell by the wayside of these developments.
Car-centric, segregated living societies of the West — where neighbourhoods were divided based on your age/income group and your family configuration — have fast started replicating in developing nations such as India and China with the sudden affluency of the middle-income group. Though traditional societies have certain in-built immunities against age-segregated communities due to their family centric living, age-segregated living is steadily becoming a phenomenon in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, where apartment blocks after apartment blocks are owned by a certain profile of people.
City centres are fast becoming places where only certain age groups (namely between 25 and 35) appreciate living, and the social and entertainment activities — like the restaurants, malls and pubs — all cater to this age group. Families are, as in the West, being forced to migrate to the suburbs generating enormous footprints of urban sprawls and car-owning and driving populations. Indian cities are reeling under fast growing vehicular population and their associated problems, which are more complex than those faced in Western countries because of the added dimensions of the massive population and poverty. Open spaces, parks and benign leisure activities that provide space to families, children and the aged are fast vanishing from the city centres of developing nations.
There are many repercussions to the above trend of development. Apart from creating nightmares of cities reeling under their ever-growing vehicular population, and its consequent energy and ecological impact, it is also slowly eliminating the ingrained levels of tolerance within traditional societies developed due to constant living with diverse age groups.
Traditional societies, with their format of family-centric living, allowed people to develop interaction skills between various age groups. Children would learn how to treat the aged, as they grew up would become role models for younger children, would operate as adults who would take on the responsibilities of providing for the children and the aged, and would embrace their elderly years as the wise old men and women, as respected members of their society with value put on their experience and wisdom. This would ensure a comfortable transition for people from one stage of their lives to the next without any existential crises or psychological trauma. It would also breed responsibility towards all sections of the society and a community sensibility, which would allow the community to survive shocks of changes as well as a more responsible behaviour towards the environment and community at large. These principles are today again being recognised as tangible ideas for building a comprehensive society for the future.
References and Useful Websites
- http://www.urbanecology.org.au/topics/walkablecities.html; Walkable Cities: Urban Ecology Australia
- http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan04/walkable.html; Walkable cities mean less obesity, prompting psychologist-urban planner collaborations
- http://cedb.asce.org/cgi/WWWdisplay.cgi?0530504; Designing the Walkable City
- http://www.eaue.de/winuwd/56.htm; Bremen: Urban district planning without cars
- http://bss.sfsu.edu/urbanaction/ua2002/cities.html; Cities Without Cars
- http://www.streetswithoutcars.com/; Streets without Cars: The Urban Experiment of State Street