|Studio Master:||Dr. Khandaker Shabbir Ahmed, Tahajibul Hossain|
|University:||Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET)|
While for many cities and towns of developing countries, the rising curve of pollution level is pronounced, Rajshahi’s air is getting cleaner. Thanks to the tree plantation campaign that began in 2004, and now the city excels at garbage and waste management, making Rajshahi one of the cleanest cities in Bangladesh. As initiatives like the construction of citywide sidewalks and riverfront redevelopment is in progress, a well-designed urban movement network encompassing safer, well connected walking infrastructure in combination with improved public transport is essential to enhance its vitality.
The following student proposal for ‘walkable Rajshahi’ has prioritized people-centric urban development to celebrate living locally with everything that one needs and admires. The idea is to transform future Rajshahi into a humane and sustainable city with active street life and a high-quality public environment where local businesses and communities will thrive. – Editor
Rajshahi, one of the major divisional cities of Bangladesh, is becoming a city for developers, financiers, and portfolio property owners, but not for people! City’s transport infrastructures are primarily built to serve the commuters using automobiles to maintain their daily activities such as dropping their children at school, scooting off to work, picking up the shopping etc.
This thesis project is an attempt to explore the potential of urban design in transforming the public life of Rajshahi city into a more exciting, vibrant and walkable urbanity by shifting the focus on the improvement of pedestrian flows and facilities rather than on cars and parking.
Walkability is not only a pedestrian movement of people; it is a measurement of the overall walking condition in a city or a particular area. It depends on how the built environment is friendly for people doing their necessary, social, and optional activities. Several factors affecting the flow of pedestrians including land use, street connectivity, residential density, orientation, proximity of homes, active street frontage, placemaking, street design features, etc. Furthermore, it depends on the presence of walking and biking networks connecting all the major destinations and mass transit points. Quality of walkways, buffers to moving traffic (planter strips, on-street parking, or bike lanes), pedestrian crossings, air quality, and street furniture and sheds all these give a reason while ensuring safety, security, and comfortable settings that stimulate walking.
Welcoming bikes, planting trees, getting parking right, mixing the use of spaces, protecting the pedestrian, reshaping the areas, improving the mass transit, putting cars in their place -these are the proposed strategies to make Rajshahi a walkable, attractive, healthy, sustainable, and lively city.
Due to large rural to urban migration, Rajshahi city is expanding rapidly day by day. Today more than 7.6 lac (0.7 million) residents live in this city (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2011). Residents contribute to the vitality day and night, going about their daily chores. Another interesting character of Rajshahi is that the existing commercial, educational, open spaces, as well as green and water bodies are well spread out all over the city which has the potential to regenerate a vibrant environment and break the mundane lifestyle of the residents.
In the public life survey report, 97% of people do not use the private car, and the largest amount of people use non-motorized vehicles (Rajshahi City Corporation, 2014). However, the major part of the streets of Rajshahi is dedicated to the automobiles; small footpath can barely be found at the edges. On top of that, open dustbin, construction materials, etc. occupy the footpath, which gives a painful and unpleasant experience to the pedestrian and demotivates them to walk. On the other hand, fruit and street food shops, small passageways, flower shops, street furniture, and amenities are also available on the streets, which pulls the urban people.
Five major streets and nodes that structure the city are Grater road, Hadir morh, Kumarpara, Nator road, Gonokpara. For citizen’s daily and occasional activities, their destination points are for food, clothing, shopping, religious, educational, and health facilities. Locating these points, we can find out the most used street is Shahab Bazar road (Nator road), which is parallel to the river Padma. From this road, one can quickly move towards the neighborhoods or the riverfront or any other destination points. Hence, the proposal comprises strategies to requalify the existing car-based road system into a safe, inclusive and serviceable movement network to accommodate a diversity of transport modes and support activities including pedestrian priority streets.
In this proposed movement network, a loop was created to develop pedestrian-oriented development with facilities for public transport interchanges so that people can move to the destination points within five minutes or a 400 m walk.
Also, the emphasis is given on the considerations to make a mixed-use and lively street. Some asphalt roads are downgraded by changing the paving materials and redesigning the lanes based on user hierarchy. A circular tram line with a station at every 400 m ( 5-minute walking distance from the station to station) is also proposed. A dedicated bicycle lane is also introduced along with greening and amenities which are essential for creating a more comfortable, safe and active street environment.