DUBAI // City planners say they hope residents will embrace their desire to highlight cities’ natural landscape and build on traditional Arabic social themes.
Building a city centre that encourages residents to meet and shows up the uniqueness of each location is necessary to make areas stand out, they said at the international Gulf Traffic conference on Tuesday.
Rupak Chatterjee, principal urban planner at project management company Ramboll, focused on plans to transform Fujairah’s busy main artery, Hamad bin Abdullah Street.
“Our vision for this central street was that it would be a hub of activity and a symbol of Fujairah’s people-friendly, calm environment,” Mr Chatterjee said.
“So it has to be lively, vibrant, landscaped and pedestrian friendly, and above all would make Fujairah different from Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Residents and Fujairah citizens felt this was missing. They want a safe comfortable, central space.”
Protecting the serene character of the emirate with wide, tree-lined paths, regular pedestrian crossings, cycle stands and adequate seating dominated Ramboll’s sketch submissions for the Fujairah street.
This was part of a larger draft framework for the emirate covering transport, tourism, heritage, protected areas and utilities, which was submitted this year to authorities and awaiting approval.
The company will test whether adding thick foliage to the design would encourage motorists to slow down.
“Surprisingly, if drivers see a lot of trees alongside they will slow down. The plan is to have many trees and pedestrian crossings every 300 metres so cars won’t zoom by,” Mr Chatterjee said.
“The effort is to make pedestrians feel comfortable to cross the road.”
Other approaches were discussed, such as changing the mindset that easy access for vehicles determined the success of a location.
Instead of the sole focus on traffic, the idea now is for a holistic approach to help people reach public transport.
“The idea is to look wider than just the transit component to create value in a development and give residents options to better connect,” said Rashad Nochahrli, director of transport and infrastructure at design consultancy Arcadis. It is working on mixed-use developments in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
“The days of overdesign and oversupply are gone. You have the transit hub but how do you get there and how do you then finally get to the final destination?
“There must be pedestrian streetscapes, networks of shaded areas so they feel safe walking 500 metres to the final destination. That is the big movement now.
“It’s not just about providing roads any more, it’s about sustainable infrastructure. Designers and authorities are aware of this and a lot of work is happening towards that.”
Officials said implementation was crucial.
“Planning has to be very detailed so it actually changes people’s lives in terms of commuting and lifestyle, then assessments will have been put to good use,” said Shafiq Farook, an engineer with an Ajman infrastructure firm.
“Ideas and culture must integrate for this to work and be effective in the final stage when it’s put to test.”