Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Urban permeability

The streets system in Beijing is annoying. The megablock urban form means fewer streets and less permeability. All the fences have made the situation even worse. The authority’s hope was, when the streets are fenced up and organized with roundabouts, traffic is channelized – every direction of traffic flow has its own designated lane. As a result, there’s no cross traffic at intersections and the cars would never need to stop.

New York (left) and Beijing at the same scale

Beijing Dongzhimen: How am I supposed to cross the street?

Unfortunately, the planners overlooked the impact of travel time and the number of cars on the street. With the channelized streets, you’ll be miserable if you got into a wrong lane. It will mean you have to go to the next big roundabout and make a U-turn or go around a super-scale megablock just to get back to where you were. Even you are right, most of the time you still need to turn right and right and right again to make a left turn, or make a U-turn at the next intersection and come back and turn right. Still following? Yes, it’s that confusing. All this pain increases the duration of the trip, i.e. keeps the cars longer on the street. Who complains about too many cars on the street? Just let them get to their destinations easier and faster!


andrewbags said...

What about street form as means of mass control? Urban arrangements reflecting political conditions?

Human said...

hmm... i would say it's more about socio-economic conditions. the purpose of the manhattan grid was to have more efficiency in selling the land. and the scale of beijing is a result of "danwei" a company/institution where people work and live together in a big community. but i guess you can say, it's ultimately political - a difference between capital-driven operations and soviet-influenced ideologies...